Mother of son beaten to death speaks out against CPS closures - KMSP-TV

Derrion Albert`s mother speaks out against CPS closures

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

It's been four years since young Chicago student Derrion Albert was brutally beaten to death as he walked home from school.

Video of the beating drew shock and outrage from all over the world and put an international spotlight on violence in Chicago.

In a FOX 32 exclusive interview, Derrion's mother Anjanette Albert talks about school safety and says Chicago Public Schools' decision to close dozens of neighborhood schools in June is a big mistake.

"I don't care if the schools are three blocks apart," Albert says. "You know the kids, they don't get along with each other and you're gonna mix all them in together and you're gonna basically come out with the same situation that we had that happened in September of ‘09."

Derrion was 16 years old and a junior at Fenger Academy on Chicago's Far South Side. The school year had just started, but students--not gang members--from two neighborhoods, "Altgeld Gardens" and "The Ville" had been fighting since the first day of class because they didn't like each other.

CPS didn't close the school near Altgeld. Instead, they made it a military academy. Students that didn't have high test scores were forced to attend Fenger Academy near 112th and Halsted and, for some, that meant two or three buses each day to and from school.

Besides the bus rides, there were fights--brutal ones.

On September 24, 2009 some of the students at Fenger knew about the big fight after school between boys from the "The Ville" and "The Gardens". One student told her brother to grab his camcorder and he videotaped much of the fight.

Derrion Albert was beaten to death with fists, feet and railroad ties. One of the five boys charged and convicted in the brutal beating sent a letter to FOX 32.

Lapoleon Colbert says he was wrong for kicking Derrion in the head, but he's "begging for the safety of these kids."

"Don't force this on them," Colbert pleads. "Do not close those schools."

Colbert was sentenced to 32 years. When attempting to show Albert's mother the letter, she wanted nothing to do with it.

"I close my eyes and I can still see that tape I can still hear that hit," Anjanette Albert says through tears. "That first hit over the back of his head…you know, a loud noise you know it's still like you know…and you want to make sure what happened to Derrion doesn't happen to anybody else."

High schools aren't part of the list, but Anjanette Albert says mixing young teenagers will be a problem.

"That's going to boil over," she adds. "You got these kids…there's no telling what they're going to experience in that last year of having to have to go to another school and then being transferred off to high school. I think that it's going to get worse out here."

CPS officials say student's safety and security are their number one priority. FOX 32 cameras were there when schools chief Barbara Bryd Bennett walked with Fenger Academy students when school ended for the day a couple of weeks ago.

Since Albert's death, safe passage volunteers are stationed at corners to watch and protect students as they go to and from school. Safe passage patrols will be in place at the welcoming schools in September and Chicago police are working with Chicago Public Schools to come up with safe routes for the students.

Anjanette Albert says their safety came at a high price for her family. Derrion was given a diploma from Fenger Academy with his graduating class in 2011, but his mother still thinks of the "what if's."

"I sit sometimes and I wonder where would he be today?" Albert says. "He would be 20. Would he be in college or working or would he be this fantastic you know person or a wonderful young man…we didn't cuz that was stolen from us. From him."

FOX 32's Darlene Hill spoke with school officials and they say they're still trying to put together safe routes to and from school for some of the students caught in the middle of the school closings plan.

The schools chief has always said the student safety will not be compromised. Anjanette Albert says that sounds good, but sometimes it's only after tragic things happen when a better plan is put in place.

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