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Holder Calls Chicago Teen's Killing Wake-Up Call


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

In Chicago today, two top officials in the Obama administration met with students, educators and city leaders to talk about youth violence. Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan went to Chicago in response to the death last month of a 16-year-old. His beating was captured on video.

NORRIS: In a few minutes, I'll talk with Secretary Duncan.

First, NPR's David Schaper has the latest from Chicago.

DAVID SCHAPER: The attorney general and education secretary joined Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in meeting with parents and students from Fenger High School on Chicago's South Side. Two factions of Fenger students clashed in a street fight September 24th. The scene, caught on cell phone video, shows the beating death of a 16-year-old honor student. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

ARNE DUNCAN: The graphic video of Fenger High School student Derrion Albert being fatally beaten is terrifying, heartbreaking and tragic. It shocks the conscience.

SCHAPER: Last year, 34 students from Chicago Public Schools, the system Duncan used to lead, were murdered. This year, already five have died violently. And Attorney General Holder says this is not just a Chicago problem. Holder's Justice Department released a study today measuring the impact of youth violence. It shows that more than 60 percent of the children surveyed say they were exposed to violence, either directly or indirectly, within the past year. Half of children and adolescents report being assaulted at least once. And more than one in 10 suffered injuries as a result.

ERIC HOLDER: You know, those numbers are astonishing, and they are unacceptable. We simply cannot stand for an epidemic of violence that robs our youth of their childhood and perpetuates a cycle in which too many of today's victims become tomorrow's criminals.

SCHAPER: Holder and Secretary Duncan announced the federal government would give Fenger High School and its neighboring and feeder schools an emergency grant of $500,000 to help keep the peace in and around the schools. They said they will try to direct additional federal funds to school anti-violence programs around the country and to community organizations including Ceasefire, which work to mediate gang conflicts. The officials say adults - including parents, teachers and mentors - are key to reducing violence.

Mayor Daley asked Holder to bring the full force of the federal government to Chicago's fight against street gangs. Chicago police officials say the city's gangs are much more entrenched here than in other big cities, including New York and Los Angeles. But Holder, Duncan and Daley acknowledge money alone can't solve the problem. And they called for a national conversation to address youth violence - a conversation in which Holder says he wants to do more listening than talking to get input from students, parents, community leaders, and experts in the field.

HOLDER: We're not interested in just scratching the surface or focusing on generalities. And as we delve into this problem, we're not going to protect any sacred cows. We're here to learn firsthand what's happening on our streets so that we can devise effective solutions.


SCHAPER: But outside of Mayor Daley's City Hall office, where the news conference took place, some community leaders are already upset, saying they are being left out of that conversation. And Phillip Jackson, executive director of the Black Star Project, says no one should be left out of the effort to reduce youth violence.

PHILLIP JACKSON: Because the police can't do it; the schools can't do it. They cannot fix this problem without the community. And so the question becomes: When are they going to let the community in? That's the only question. That's the only legitimate question for today, and they didn't answer it.

SCHAPER: But such comments illustrate just how difficult it might be to develop consensus on how to solve the intractable problem of inner- city youth violence.

David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

United States & World Morning EditionAll Things Considered
David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.