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Is Student Violence Necessarily School Violence?

Something like 34 school-age children in Chicago have been killed in the past year, and the deaths have created a lot of media coverage and political posturing along with serious concern. Here, Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn asks whether CPS officials and the media should be linking the deaths to the school system or not, given that many of the deaths were not on or near school grounds (Should we be counting the violent deaths of Chicago Public School students?). For some reason, the fact that these children all went to Chicago schools has helped galvanize attention. It's a tough but good question, both from a media perspective and politically. Others may disagree, but I don't think it takes away from the seriousness of the children's deaths to think about it.

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In the urban district where I'm a parent, the public schools' image is truly fragile, and the schools' and kids' well-being is closely linked with that image.

So it actually does matter that the local press links to public schools any death of anyone associated with a school. One high school lost three students to violence last year -- none of the incidents located at or near or otherwise connected with the school -- and the local daily did a front page story on the tragedies "at" the high school.

Do I even need to mention that private schools never get this treatment -- they're often not mentioned even in coverage of negative events that are CLEARLY connected with them.

I also live in an urban district with either a "fragile" or hopelessly trashed public image. It doesn't help, however, that our Superintendent refers to the problems that "come in from" the community, as if the schools were out in outer space.

While an absolute causal link is hard to establish, there are certainly strong correlations between low rates of graduation and literacy and the incarceration of young men, high rates of unemployment and crime in general. Kudos to Arne Duncan for recognizing that "our kids" belong to all of us 24/7, and that we all have some responsibility for stopping the madness when it comes to killing.

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