A Philly college helps its college students to course of — and communicate out in opposition to — gun violence : NPR


Neighborhood gun violence could cause an undue burden on close by colleges. In Philadelphia, campuses are educating the best way to communicate out in opposition to the violence.


As neighborhood gun violence has elevated in Philadelphia, so too has the burden on the town’s colleges. Greater than 107 college students have been shot thus far this college yr. Twenty-three have died. Even when the trauma occurs off college grounds, it ripples throughout lecture rooms. And WHYY’s Aubri Juhasz visited one Philadelphia public college the place directors are talking out in opposition to the violence and educating their college students to do the identical.

AUBRI JUHASZ, BYLINE: Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood is on the heart of the town’s opioid epidemic. Right here, folks purchase, promote and use medication out within the open, and there is gun violence. A whole bunch of individuals have been shot within the better space final yr, together with greater than a dozen youngsters and youths. In the midst of all of this sits a grey brick constructing with a hoop of purple paint and a fenced-in yard that is impeccably clear.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Good morning. Good morning.

JUHASZ: It is a college – Gloria Casarez Elementary.

DONNY: A bullet doesn’t have a reputation on it.

JUHASZ: Donny, a fifth grader at Casarez, talks about gun violence with a readability that is surprising for a 10-year-old.

DONNY: If a man is mad and – I am about to kill someone. I am about to kill someone. No method you are about to do that to me. They usually purchase a gun – growth. After they purchase a gun, they see the man. He shoots him. My household’s having dinner, and that bullet shoots via our window, and it in all probability hits considered one of my relations – my brother or my sister. I’ve to fret about that.

JUHASZ: Many youngsters in Kensington have misplaced family and friends to gun violence, and all of them have sheltered from gunfire at dwelling or at college, the place lockdowns are frequent. Assistant Principal Julio Nunez says it is vital for colleges to create space for college kids to speak in regards to the violence they’re experiencing.

JULIO NUNEZ: We now have to allow them to know that it isn’t regular in order that it isn’t conditioning for them. In the event that they develop up round violence, we all know that they will see that as regular as a result of they might not know what the choice is.

JUHASZ: That is why every day at Casarez begins with a morning assembly. It is an opportunity for college kids to share how they’re feeling and for adults to remind them violence should not be accepted as regular.

In Rosa Arnold’s fourth grade classroom, her college students clear up breakfast…


JUHASZ: …Push of their chairs and type a circle. They speak about what they did over the weekend, after which Nunez tells them the immediate for the day.

NUNEZ: When was the final time you noticed or witnessed one thing that was violent – one thing was not proper that was taking place wherever in the neighborhood? When was the final time, and the way did it make you are feeling?

JUHASZ: He provides them a minute to consider the query whereas counselors stand prepared to supply help. Nearly all the youngsters have one thing to say.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Final time, it was a shootout at this park…

JUHASZ: One pupil says there was a shootout on the park when he went to play basketball along with his mother. In one other classroom, it is 10-year-old Yoleiny’s flip to talk. She talks a few taking pictures that occurred proper in entrance of her home.

YOLEINY: We simply noticed a man run after which somebody laying on the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: We’re so sorry we did not hear it.

NUNEZ: When did that occur?

YOLEINY: Yesterday.

JUHASZ: As the scholars share, Nunez repeats two issues again and again – violence is not regular.

NUNEZ: It isn’t regular. Do not ever assume it’s.

JUHASZ: And faculty is the most secure place to be. In the end, the dialog is about making college students really feel highly effective, not powerless. It is a lesson Yoleiny says she understands.

YOLEINY: Like Mr. Nunez mentioned, what do you have got a voice for in the event you’re not utilizing it?

JUHASZ: Yoleiny is a part of a gaggle of scholars who, with the help of their academics, have develop into their very own advocates. Final yr, the scholars led a profitable marketing campaign to get the varsity’s pothole-filled yard repaved. And just lately, they held a mayoral debate so they may ask the candidates questions face-to-face. Here is 10-year-old Jeremiah.


JEREMIAH: How will you forestall or at the very least lower the extent of gun violence throughout the town and make it tougher for criminals to get weapons? We simply wish to be secure and be taught.

JUHASZ: The varsity’s principal, Awilda Balbuena, needs the identical factor. She says numerous work goes into maintaining Casarez secure, particularly as shootings within the space have elevated.

AWILDA BALBUENA: I get teary-eyed as a result of I do know, like, I can go for a stroll with my son round my block. We might each get on our bikes, go for a motorcycle trip and keep very wholesome that method. After which I do know that our youngsters will not be doing these issues, and it actually pains me that my college students do not get that.

JUHASZ: Casarez gives after-school actions via exterior companions, however the packages solely have room for a small variety of youngsters. And there is a ready checklist. Balbuena says the varsity want to supply summer time packages however cannot, since its greater than 100-year-old constructing would not have central air. Assistant Principal Nunez says district officers are doing a greater job responding to gun violence than they’ve previously, however that they want to consider the long-term penalties of some insurance policies. He says the extra damaging experiences a baby has at college, the much less doubtless they’re to maintain coming.

NUNEZ: So by the point they get to a spot the place it’s their option to stroll to highschool, they’re selecting to decide out. And it’s due to the standard of providers that we supplied or failed to supply.

JUHASZ: In Philadelphia, 14% of scholars dropped out of faculty throughout the 2020-2021 college yr, which is the newest knowledge obtainable. Balbuena says it is time for educators to reply to the town’s gun violence extra instantly.

BALBUENA: I feel that is how we bought right here. I feel it was passing the buck to another person. It is another person’s drawback. And we see right here, at Gloria Casarez, it’s our drawback.

JUHASZ: She says doing nothing is a method of condoning the violence, and that is unacceptable.

For NPR Information, I am Aubri Juhasz in Philadelphia.


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