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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Attorney General and Education Secretary Call for National Conversation on Values and Student Violence

Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan today joined with Chicago city officials to call for a national conversation on values to address youth violence in the wake of the fatal beating of a Chicago high school student.  The announcement followed meetings with City officials, community leaders, students, and parents.

"Youth violence isn’t a Chicago problem, any more than it is a black problem or a white problem. It’s something that affects communities big and small, and people of all races and colors. Today is the beginning of what will be a sustained, national effort on behalf of this entire administration to address youth violence and to make our streets safe for everyone," Holder said.

"Chicago will not be defined by this incident but rather by our response to it – so we came here today to join with you and with communities all across America – to call for a national conversation on values. It’s a conversation that must happen every place in America where violence, intolerance, and discrimination exists," Duncan said.

Today’s meeting continues President Obama’s and the Administration’s strong commitment to combating violence:

  • In August, the Attorney General joined mayors from across the nation at a White House Gang Violence Prevention and Crime Control Conference.
  • The Recovery Act provided $4 billion for state and local law enforcement assistance, crime prevention, victims of crime, and funding to address violence against women. Through the Recovery Act, the City of Chicago received over $13 million in funding from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services COPS) to hire 50 officers to help combat crime and violence.
  • The President’s budget includes a request of $298 million in additional funding for hiring additional police officers to help meet the Administration’s commitment to hire 50,000 officers nationwide.
  • The Administration requested $114 million within the Department of Justice to fund programs designed to reduce criminal recidivism and help end the revolving door from corrections to reoffending, as well as $115 million in reentry-related programs funded within the Department of Labor.
  • The President’s budget requested $25 million to support successful community-based partnerships designed to end violent youth crime – partnerships like the successful model implemented by Operation Ceasefire in Chicago.

The Department of Justice will today release a study on children’s exposure to violence. Among other findings, the study shows that more than 60 percent of the children surveyed were exposed to violence in the past year, either directly or indirectly. Nearly half of children and adolescents were assaulted at least once, and more than one in 10 were injured as a result.  Nearly one-quarter were the victims of robbery, vandalism or theft, and one in 16 were victimized sexually. The study can be found at www.ojjdp.ncjrs.gov after 2 p.m. ET.

"These 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 today’s victims become tomorrow’s criminals," Holder said.

Duncan announced that the Department of Education is working with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to award a $500,000 grant to help Fenger High School and the elementary and middle schools that feed into Fenger HS, restoring learning environments following the death of 16-year-old Derrion Albert. His fatal beating, outside a Roseland community center several blocks from the high school, was captured on a cell phone video. Funds for this grant are coming from a grant program entitled Project SERV – School Emergency Response to Violence. This program is designed to help restore the learning environment in school districts that have been impacted by a significant traumatic event. SERV grants also were provided to school districts in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York in 2009.

Duncan emphasized, however, "This is not about the money. Money alone will never solve this problem. It’s about our values. It’s about who we are as a society. And it’s about taking responsibility for our young people to teach them what they need to know to live side-by-side and deal with their differences without anger or violence."

The grant from the Department of Education will enable CPS to facilitate safe passage for students to and from school, offer training to enable teachers to better manage their classrooms and engage students in learning, and it can be used to collaborate with community organizations to expand and increase student-centered support programs. The grant also can be used to strengthen the school support network with crisis response training for teachers, and to provide additional, extensive mental health services to students and the school community.

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