From the start of the year until Dec. 19, shootings wounded 409 juveniles in Chicago, a police spokesperson told Fox News Digital Monday. That compares to the 360 juveniles aged 17 and under who were shot during the same time period in 2020.
As for murders, Chicago police counted at least 54 homicide victims aged 17 or younger from Jan. 1 until Dec. 19. The spokesperson stressed that the total included all manners of homicide, not just shooting deaths. During that same time period last year, 55 juveniles were killed.
Chicago Public Schools did not return a Fox News Digital request for comment.
The Chicago Sun-Times, which maintains its own records, reported that 57 school-aged children were killed due to gun violence this year, including 16 school-aged children who were elementary or middle school students. The newspaper said of the 49 Chicago school children who died in shootings in 2020, 12 of them were killed before reaching high school. And then dozens more of 18-year-olds, who were either current or recent high school students, were also killed in shootings, impacting school communities citywide.
As violence has surged since 2020, mourning for school communities has looked different during pandemic-times, and administrators are struggling to support children, many of whom are experiencing behavioral issues in classroom, while coping with such losses.
In this Jan. 11, 2021, file photo, pre-kindergarten teacher Sarah McCarthy works with a student at Dawes Elementary in Chicago. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP, Pool, File)
Kevin Tinker, age 14, was just one of the many children killed due to gun violence this year. He was fatally shot on Nov. 20 while standing on the sidewalk in Roseland, and police released surveillance video of the two suspects wanted for his killing.
Tinker’s mother, 31-year-old Delisa Tucker, met the same fate just days later while visiting the site where her son was killed. She was shot in the chest while placing flowers and a candle at the makeshift memorial site, evoking outrage from the principal of Lavizzo Elementary, where Tinker was a student for over a decade of his short life.
“It’s hard having to hold back tears for kids,” Principal Tracey Stelly, who recently hosted a town hall to allow parents and neighbors to air their grief, told the Sun-Times, “and also letting students know that it’s OK to cry, it’s OK to grieve.”
The district sent a crisis team before winter break, and the school’s social worker, counselor and psychologist put together a trauma plan for students and staff. Stelly said she has created “safe rooms” in the building where students, with an adult present, can write down reflections or just sit still to allow them to process losing a classmate.
“I don’t know if people understand,” Stelly said, describing how Tinker’s death affects her too. “We know that it hurts their families deeply. But we’re a part of the kids’ families, too. I have kids for 11, sometimes 12 years. … And that’s a huge impact on an educator.”
In October, a 14-year-old freshman and a school security guard were both wounded by gunfire while walking out of Phillips Academy High School as bullets flew around dismissal.
As no arrests were immediately announced, and no explanation from police as to what prompted the shooting, parents demanded more counseling for their children to cope and Principal Matthew Sullivan said in November he was brainstorming other ideas, such as campus beautification projects and yoga classes, Block Club Chicago reported.
“Imagine all those kids at Phillips right now, how traumatized they are by one of their freshmen being shot at the school, their security guard being shot,” the Rev. Michael Pfleger told the Sun-Times. “And this is throughout the South and the West sides. The trauma that’s suffered by families, by whole communities, by whole neighborhoods.”
Simeon High School lost two students in September in separate shootings that happened just hours apart on Chicago’s South Side.
Jamari Williams, a 15-year-old junior varsity football player, was shot shortly after dismissal near a popular hangout for students just down the street from the school when police say a black car approached and someone opened fired.
“To see something tragic like this happen, it’s heartbreaking,” football coach Darryl Smith told WLS-TV following Williams’ death. “It’s just like a broken record, every day we turn the news on, another child shot, another teenager shot, and when you have some sort of contact with the child it’s heartbreaking.”
Four hours later, 15-year-old Kentrell McNeal, who volunteered for Good Kids Mad City, a group that fights to end violence, was shot and killed outside a Hyde Park McDonald’s. A 14-year-old companion with McNeal was also wounded in the shooting.
“It’s heartbreaking. They call it the Simeon curse because we lose a student every year,” a student at the same high school, Aie’rianna Williams, told WLS-TV at the time. “When is it going to stop? Because we all know when we graduate it’s not going to stop. We’re going to hear about it again, and again. It’s tiring.”
As virtual learning was still in effect in 2020, school communities mourned the losses of their students killed due to gun violence through virtual therapy sessions. Now that in-person learning has resumed, administrators say grieving a classmate’s death takes time.
Shortly after students at John Hay Community Academy began their summer 2020 break, parents received a mass email announcing that 13-year-old student Amaria Jones had been killed. She was struck by stray bullet in her living room over Father’s Day weekend.
“We’re still dealing with her death. It’s part of a day-to-day process,” Principal Latrese Mathis, recalling how students wore purple in September to remember Jones’ birthday. “The schools are a place of healing. But at the same time it’s still a work in progress. Because there’s nothing that gets you over this. It’s very hard to see a child murdered.”