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Kalyn Belsha @kalynbelsha
, 13 tweets, 5 min read Read on Twitter
1/ A little delayed because I’m starting a fellowship in NYC this week, but I wanted to share more about how @caylaclements_ & I reported our story about how Chicago's alternative HSs have disproportionately high numbers of student deaths…
@caylaclements_ 2/ This story began with a FOIA request for student transfer data for another story. When I got the data back, I realized there was a special code for students that CPS had been notified were deceased.
@caylaclements_ 3/ Right away it was clear there were a lot of alternative HSs on the list. Over 4 school yrs, 108 alternative HS students died, out of a total of 425 students district-wide. That means a tiny fraction of the district's enrollment made up a quarter of all student deaths.
4/ The reason we only have 4 years of data is because when I tried (many, many times) to get more, CPS officials denied these requests, saying it would violate student & family privacy. I don’t think they ever meant to give me those initial years.
5/ It’s hard to pin down how many alternative HS students died due to gun violence. The transfer data doesn’t tell us how students died. CPS tracks fatal shootings, but wouldn’t tell us which schools students attended, saying it could re-traumatize students & their communities.
6/ But we know from interviewing dozens of parents, students & educators that many of the alternative HS students were shot & killed. @caylaclements_ spent hrs reading police reports & calling families. She heard heartbreaking stories, not all of which we could fit in our story.
@caylaclements_ 7/ One mother whose son was shot & killed while he was a student at a Camelot Excel school told us he’d struggled with his attendance at his previous alternative HS, Sullivan House, after his close friend was also shot & killed.
@caylaclements_ 8/ Our 4 years of data show Sullivan House had more student deaths than any other CPS school during that time. That included #LaquanMcDonald, who'd been attending the school for about a month when he was shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer…
9/ We heard from many alternative schools that CPS spent the latter half of the 2017-18 school year stepping up social & emotional supports for them, like offering trainings & meetings w/ specialists. CPS had been doing similar work at other schools for years.
10/ CPS officials say they realized they had to offer more supports after deaths in alternative HSs spiked. The number of deaths in these schools went from 27 in SY15-16 to 38 in SY16-17. We don’t know how many died in SY17-18 b/c CPS wouldn’t give us a school-level accounting.
11/ While many alternative HSs have worked for yrs to get the training & staff they need to help traumatized students, several of the newer, for-profit schools we spoke with seemed less prepared. They’re just setting up peace rooms & scrambling to fill social worker positions.
12/ A former social worker at Ombudsman South told me b/c the school ran like a “skeleton crew” he had a hard time focusing on his social worker duties. About half the time, he said, he “babysat” late students in the cafeteria b/c there was no one else to supervise them.
13/ Many educators work hard to help students cope w/ the trauma of losing their classmates. ICYMI, here's our video of 3 recent CCA Academy grads who studied the root causes of gun violence in their n’hood & participated in a school-wide walkout
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