"We have to start talking about this as a crisis or people will shrug it off and take it as an accepted part of growing up in certain neighborhoods," says Michael Vaughn, a spokesman for the Chicago Public Schools. Even though most of the violence happens off school grounds, says Mr. Vaughn, it has an enormous effect on students' education and ability to focus on learning. "We want to raise awareness of the fact that our students have to deal with guns and gang violence far too much in their lives."
The victims this year have included a 10-year-old who wanted to a preacher, older teenagers, innocent bystanders, and gang members. On one particularly violent weekend this spring, seven public school students were shot, two of them fatally.
The shooting at Crane occurred in early March, just minutes after school let out and less than a block from the school. Ruben Ivy, a junior, was shot and killed – allegedly by a student from ABLA, which is being transformed from a public housing project into a mixed-income community. Within minutes of the shooting, two other Crane students were brutally attacked, one hit in the head with a golf club and another beaten so badly he suffered a seizure.
Part of the issue at Crane is the population of students from multiple neighborhoods and rival gang areas. The day of the shooting, a fight had apparently broken out in the morning at school, and the violence that followed the closing bell may simply have been an escalation of tensions that were simmering all day.
"Something has changed in the way teenagers are resolving conflict," says Monique Bond, a spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department, adding that cities around the country are taking note of the phenomenon. "It used to be fistfights and arguments, but conflict resolution with this generation is completely different."