In an attempt to stem a brutal cycle of student shooting deaths, Chicago Public Schools officials have used a newfangled probability model to identify 1,200 high school students statistically at risk and will direct $30 million in support services and outreach initiatives to help protect them this school year.
District officials hope the new plan—which will assign personal advocates and social workers to the most at-risk students and also offer some of those students after-school jobs—will help "totally stop the youth violence problem" in the nation's third-largest school district, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Thirty-seven Chicago public school students were killed by gunfire last year, and there have been 500 shooting incidents in the 400,000-student district in the past two years, said district spokesperson Monique Bond.
To identify potential gunshot victims, District CEO Ron Huberman assigned analysts to study the characteristics of CPS high school students who had been shot in the past five years. They found that such kids were likely to be black or Hispanic males, homeless, special education students, enrolled at alternative schools, at least two credits behind in high school, and likely to have committed one serious school violation per school year.
When asked why the district was not taking the opposite approach and identifying the likely shooters instead of the victims, Bond told the Sun-Times that it is easier to identify the students at risk of being shot than it is to locate the offenders responsible for the shootings, many of whom are not students.
Huberman says that by November, the 1,200 students should be matched up with advocates who will work with them, their families, their schools, and their communities in pinpointing and addressing potential hazards.
Security experts say that it makes sense for school and city leaders to look for common trends among victims but that focusing on solutions should be the real goal.
"I am not familiar with any other comparable efforts in other districts," says Kenneth Trump, president of the consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services. "But the real questions are usually not based on identifying kids who are at risk but on what protocols are in place to do something meaningful once they're identified."