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Ending School Violence
Detail: Ron Huberman, the new chief of public schools in Chicago, is trying a new approach to the violence that has killed and maimed hundreds of young people and turned Chicagoís poorest neighborhoods into precincts of terror and despair. With the prompting and support of his boss, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Mr. Hubermanís ambitious plan will offer mentoring, counseling and jobs to high-risk students.

Nearly 10,000 of the cityís 113,000 high school students are at risk of becoming victims of gun violence and need help. These lives follow a clear pattern. They are absent from school more than 40 percent of the time, on average. They have fallen behind and are more likely to be enrolled in special education. And they generally attend 38 of the cityís nearly 140 public high schools.

The chaotic schools attended by high-risk students tend to differ from better-run schools in measurable ways. They have fewer counselors and social workers. They have higher rates of suspension and expulsion. They more often involve the police in minor skirmishes, like shoving matches that then go unresolved. The Huberman plan wants to remake the high-risk schools by beefing up the social work and counseling staff, by better training security guards and overhauling a disciplinary process that seems designed to throw out as many children as possible as quickly as possible. Most importantly the involvement of guardians and parents will be improved.

The plan, which will be started with federal stimulus money, will cost $60 million for the first two years. But it will more than pay for itself if it reduces the number of shootings and deaths and puts more young people on the road to productive lives instead of the road to prison. It deserves full and enthusiastic support from the city, community groups and from the business community, which could play an essential role by providing the young participants with jobs.
Source: A version of this article appeared in print on November 5, 2009, on page A34 of the New York edition.
Date: December 6 2009