Most Dangerous School Isn't Harper*


What are the new rules of gang life for Chicago students?  How many gangs are there?

How many CPS students were killed last year — and already this year?

Which high school is most dangerous (not necessarily on campus but for students going to and from school)?

It’s not Harper, the school profiled in This American Life.  But Harper isn’t far from the top.

*See below for some corrections and clarifications provided by WBEZ’s Lutton. I was trying to shed light and bring attention to the issue in my own bloggy way, not trying to throw shade on the Harper story or confuse matters.  But that’s exactly what I seem to have done.

“Know your geography (whether you join a gang or not, you’re in one). Never walk by yourself [or on the sidewalk]. Never walk with someone else. If someone shoots, don’t run.”

These are some of the rules that WBEZ reporter Linda Lutton gleaned during her time at Harper High School, part of the two-part This American Life segment that airs again tonight. Part one is here.

Meanwhile, The Retired Principal (RP) says that the CPD recently told him/her: “There are 68 traditional street gangs in Chicago. There are over 650 factions of these street gangs in Chicago.”

This is interesting because one of the main takeaways from the This American Life story is that the old days of Bloods and Crips, blue and red, tightly-organized large-neighborhood gangs are gone, as are ritualized initiations.

Also from RP (unverified):  “In the 2012 calendar year there were 693 junveniles shot with 428 being CPS students. In the calendar year 2012 there were 89 junveniles killed. The top five CPS schools with the most CPS students killed in the calendar year of 2012 were, Hyde Park HS-20 students, Harper HS-13 students, South Shore HS-12 students and Prologue HS’s- 10 students.”

*UPDATE: Like I said, the figures from RP are unverified. A couple of folks have written in to say that that RP’s figures are way high.  [Harper, for instance, lost three kids last year … not 13. And Hyde Park, 20??] And like I wrote in the lede and below, it’s not the schools that are dangerous, it’s the surrounding neighborhoods.

**ALSO From Linda Lutton, at WBEZ: A total of 70 kids ages 18 and under were killed by gunshot in 2012. Via RedEye.  Three of them were from Harper, according to CPS, plus 12 gunshot injuries. Plus two more that were reported directly.

“The Harper High School stories we reported for This American Life never made the claim that Harper was “the most dangerous school” (I think you probably mean the school with the most students impacted by gun violence) (We didn’t claim that either-just that this is a school that’s been horribly impacted by gun violence in the neighborhood).”

This is interesting because CPS is now refusing to tell WBEZ whether kids who’ve been killed went to a CPS school or not — citing a federal law called FERPA.  Asked to comment, the USDE (which administers FERPA) seemed to be saying that FERPA was not a valid reason to withhold this information:

“FERPA would permit a school to disclose appropriately designated directory information unless the parent or eligible student (student 18 years of age or entered college at any age) opt out of the disclosure of directory information. A student’s name is generally considered directory information. Schools may disclose directory information if it has given public notice to parents of students in attendance and eligible students in attendance concerning the school’s directory information policy. ”

As in the past, several commenters have noted that the practice of ID-ing victims’ CPS schools can confuse the public about whether the violence is taking place on campus or not.  Others — including WBEZ — claim that the public has a right to know where these kids went to school, and which schools are being affected disproportionately.  I would add that school identification prevents these students’ deaths from becoming anonymous — a name, a street address — and reminds the public that there is a societal obligation to keep kids safe.

According to WBEZ, 2013 homicides of CPS students include Wells Community Academy, Gage Park High School, 2 at Clemente Community Academy, Morgan Park High School, Manley Career Academy, King College Prep, and Marine Military Academy.

Filed under: Media Watch


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  • see the updated and clarified post above**

    I was trying to shed light and bring attention to the issue in my own bloggy way, not trying to throw shade on the Harper story or confuse matters. But that's exactly what I seem to have done.

  • also -- here's the link to part two, in case you missed it or still haven't listened

  • I thought the end of Part II, where they discuss the ending of the extra funding brought into Harper from its "turnaround" was huge. Huge.

  • A Chicago teacher asks students whether shooting victims should be identified by their CPS affiliation or not

  • Alex, these are not my figures! These are the figures presented by Kenneth Boudreau, from the Chicago Police Department during his powerpoint presentation on street gangs in Chicago and the impact of social media in public schools. Officer Kenneth Boudreau presented at the 56th Annual Education Conference of the Chicago Principals & Adminstrators Association at the Fairmount Hotel, Chicago, Illinois on Thursday, February 7, 2013 from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm in Breakout Session I in the Chancellor meeting room, Level 3 on "Gangs and Social Media". I was in this breakout session and I wrote down the information from his powerpoint presentation from CPD! If anyone one has a problem with this information, please contact Kenneth Boudreau, Chicago Police Department and he will give you this information! Thanking you in advance.

  • Alex, the question is who do you believe? Do you believe the Chicago Police Department information for the calendar year of 2012 or the Chicago Public Schools information that runs on a different calendar year from July 1st to June 30th? P.S.- I believe the Chicago Police Department information. Alex, please check it out!

  • Sgt. Kenneth Boudreau is the commanding officer of the Gang School Safety Team for the Chicago Police Department and a 31-year law enforcement professional. He holds a MS in Public Safety Administration.

  • According to RedEye, in the calendar year of 2012, about 20% (100) of the 515 homicide victims were between the ages of 13 and 19 (school age victims).

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