Chicago Police Target Troubled Schools
As gun violence claims a growing list of victims in Chicago's public schools - last month the number of students killed in gunfire hit 20 since September - new police patrols from the Chicago Police Department are in place at the 435,000-student district, with 50 other officers leaving desk jobs, in an effort to stem the rash of killings.
"We're targeting our resources at some of the troubled schools to address gang retaliation and other violence," police superintendent Jody Weis announced at an anti-gun rally in March.
Deployed at Crane High School following the fatal shooting of a student there, and in the neighborhoods of several other high conflict schools where officials know problems exist, the officers are targeting school bus routes in an attempt to keep the peace during arrival and dismissal times, says CPS press secretary Michael Vaughn.
The response unit will also have live access to about 4,500 security cameras mounted outside and inside schools.
The situation has become so dire that Rev. Michael Pfleger, a local activist priest, has announced that protestors will convene in the Thompson Center plaza after every fatal shooting to demonstrate for increased state gun control legislation. One such rally was held in April after a student was killed in the Simeon Career Academy parking lot.
"This doesn't happen in other countries," district CEO Arne Duncan said at the gathering of several hundred Chicago students, politicians, school officials and church leaders. "We just value our right to bear arms more than we value our children, and our priorities are fundamentally backwards."
Still, some worry that no amount of gun control or boosted police presence can really help turn the tide of gang retaliation and violence in the district.
"We can try to do the best we can, but we cannot control the illegal guns that are getting into the hands of the wrong people," police spokeswoman Monique Bond told the Chicago tribune.
A reward has been set up that will offer $5,000 every time a young person in Chicago is murdered and information leading to an arrest and conviction is given.
Shooting Survivors Sue Security Company
A group of nearly two dozen people affected by the 2005 shooting at the Red Lake (Minn.) School District are suing Burnsville, Minn.-based MacNeil Environmental Inc., the company that had been hired to come up with a crisis management plan for the district.
The lawsuits say the consulting and engineering firm lacked qualifications to sell the school its emergency preparedness plan and failed to follow through on developing and implementing a plan that would have helped school officials respond better when the shooting took place.
The plaintiffs include the families of people killed or injured in the massacre in addition to a handful of former high school employees. Each plaintiff is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.
"MacNeil sold a security plan that didn't work," says Elliot Olsen, a Minneapolis attorney who represents Steve Cobenais, who survived the shooting but was left with a severe brain injury. "We intend to show that had MacNeil done its job, these deaths and injuries would have been prevented."
Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, agrees that security management firms must be held accountable in training today's schools in both prevention and response strategies, but he adds that simply having a crisis management plan is worthless if the school does not continually test it.
"The template must be implemented through professional development and student exercises," he says. "Fine tuning the plan's nuts and bolts could make or break how well you respond should an actual crisis occur."