Mayor: Chicago students safer than years past - KMSP-TV

Mayor: Chicago students safer than years past

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, accompanied by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, trumpeted figures showing the latest public school year was the safest for students in the last seven years.

It may provide no comfort at all to families who lost loved ones such as 14-year old Endia Martin, a Tilden High student shot dead by another 14-year-old girl this spring. However, with city workers and volunteers assuring Safe Passage routes were truly safe, the number of student murder victims dropped by one-third; 24 kids were killed this past year, compared to 36 in the 2012-2013 academic year.

“I'll be honest with you. I don't think that this community, this mayor, the leaders from this community, get enough credit,” said Holder.

At a made-for-the-cameras event, Holder sat next to Emanuel praising changes in the Chicago Public Schools that Holder said could become national models, especially abolishing so-called "zero tolerance" policies. CPS said that's led to big declines in student suspensions, expulsions and in-school arrests, all of which hit African-American boys the hardest.

More are now staying in school and the graduation rate is improving.

It's all very different from what was forecast by the President of the Chicago Teachers Union. While waging war on Emanuel's decision to close about 50 schools, Karen Lewis and her allies predicted a bloodbath might result, because some students would have to cross gang turf boundaries. The rhetoric frightened families across the city and drew attention across the country.

“He is the murder mayor. Look at the murder rate in the city. He's murdering schools. He's murdering good jobs. This policy is racist. It's classist,” Lewis said.

Lewis declined an interview request, with her spokeswoman writing, "Any drop in student homicides is positive and reassuring to thousands of our families who've been impacted by violence."

Emanuel was carefully understated when I asked about his critics' dire predictions.

“The fears, justifiably raised, did not bear out, given this was the safest year. But also attendance at the schools were up,” added Emanuel.

The safety issue remains a top priority for Emanuel, with Lewis now publicly discussing running for mayor herself.

To protect students on Safe Passage routes to and from school in the new academic year this fall, Emanuel said he's adding another $1 million to the program.

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