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What’s the school district doing about gun violence?

Written by Jeremiah Al-Jeleel, video by Al-Jeleel and Stephen Conner

Gun violence is an issue that plagues the city of Cleveland. Not only does this issue have an effect on the morale of its citizens, but it also has consequences on the education of the youth. 

In September Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon said students experience trauma due to gun violence happening in their neighborhoods. 

“We know that trauma impacts brain function and this trauma is built up due to ongoing experience that takes a toll on a student’s ability to learn and their ability to feel safe” Gordon said. 

This is an important issue to tackle also because the lives and future of our youth are at stake. Over the past 11 years, 22 students have died due to gun violence, according to statistics provided by CMSD. That’s only a tally of the deaths reported directly to the district and doesn’t include former students.

This issue has an effect on every student in CMSD. To find out what CMSD is doing to try to mitigate the impact of gun violence on the education of youth, my peer, Stephen Conner, and I interviewed CEO Eric Gordon. 

Going into the interview we had a series of questions that focused mainly on what is in place and what is being done about gun violence as it affects CMSD students.  One of our first questions was how informed is the district about these issues? Gordon responded that the district has a service called “rapid response.” This service allows the district to be alerted when a student is shot, which allows the district to provide support to the students and teachers affected. This service also sends a response team directly to a school. This team includes grief counselors and psychologists that will go out to the school to provide assistance to those affected so that they get the help they need.

Another question we had was about if there are programs in place to prevent gun violence and find out the causes of these issues. Gordon mentioned the STANCE partnership in response. STANCE is a part of a program called Partnership for a Safer Cleveland. It includes the chief of police, foundation support leaders, the justice system, and community leaders to work to curb violence, particularly youth violence. 

The CEO also mentioned that the school district has received a grant for youth action research. Through the grant, the district could recruit young people who got involved with gun violence to learn what is at the heart of this, to figure out how to stop the issue from happening again. There’s also a mentorship program for fourth graders that is being developed.  

The school district is also trying to expand its after-school programs to give students more things to do to avoid downtime where they could get involved in gang activity.

“It’s not just random, it’s caused by a need, there is a set of reasons we need to understand in order to change something,” Gordon said. 

It’s good to see that Eric Gordon and CMSD are taking action to stop gun violence to create a better and safer educational experience in Cleveland. Please watch the video of our interview above to learn more.