A scheduled strategy meeting called by a local pastor to address a rash of after-school violence around Horatio May School gained increased urgency Wednesday morning after a young female student was jumped and beaten by a mob outside the school, estimated to number 200 to 250 juveniles.
The Rev. Gregory Livingston of Mandell Methodist Church, who lives in the parsonage at 5002 W. Congress Pkwy., directly across the street from the school, said he walked out his front door just before 9 a.m. Wednesday to witness students jumping off the hood of his SUV onto the prone girl.
"She was in the fetal position, curled up by my car wheel," Livingston related.
"This school has 900 kids, and like 250 of them were out here."
There was, he said, just one school official present outside at the time of the attack.
"There was one security lady," Livingston said. "She was just paralyzed with shock."
The girl, whom Livingston described as young, but tall for her age," was transported by responding police to Loretto Hospital. Word on her condition was unavailable early Wednesday afternoon.
Chicago Public Schools Community Liaison James Deanes met with May Principal Dr. Sandra M. McCann?"Beavers and Rev. Livingston late Wednesday morning inside the school. Deanes and Livingston were later joined by Area 3 Instructional Officer Dr. Sandra J. Crosby, who arrived around 11:15 a.m.
Livingston summarized the situation he had witnessed for Crosby, saying at one point, "There just weren't enough people out here to corral all these kids."
Crosby expressed disbelief at the lack of supervision, saying "Just one person?"
Livingston said that in his opinion, the severe acting out by May students is only a symptom of deeper problems.
"I think that the parents are at the root [of the problem]," he said. "We have some real socioeconomic complexities here. We really need to start working with these parents to help them raise their kids."
The consequences of not directing resources to this problem, Livingston said, will continue to worsen.
"If [parents] don't accept responsibility for this, they'll have to deal with the consequences of having unruly kids."
That was not something that either Deanes or Crosby appeared willing to accept.
"We're not going to let this violence overtake the schools in the Austin neighborhood," said Deanes, committing to seek more resources to bring to bear on the problem.
One problem this year, both Deanes and Crosby agreed, was the lack of funds to support regular parent patrols around the school. In past years, they said, some $20,000 was budgeted annually for stipends for parent patrol members. That funding is no longer available.
"We need to redirect resource allocation," said Deanes. "The Area Instructional Officer has her work cut out for her."
Both Crosby and Deanes said they would join a diverse group of concerned individuals comprised of police, school officials, community activists, clergy and, they hope, parents, at the Mandell United Methodist Church next Monday to discuss the ongoing problem with after-school?"and now before-school?"fights and violence in the South Austin community. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 11, at Mandell Church, 5000 W. Congress Pkwy. Fliers have been sent out to a wide array of groups and individuals, as well as to many May School parents.
"We need to have a plan," said Crosby. That plan, all agreed, will require parental participation.
"This is a community effort; it's not just the school," said Deanes.
Problems with after-school fights started Feb. 8 near May Elementary, 512 S. Lavergne Ave., and have continued sporadically since. Over the past two weeks, police, community members, and CPS staff have been on hand to help keep a lid on things. But with consistently warmer weather arriving, officials were concerned about the likelihood of the type of renewed violence that occurred Wednesday morning.
According to several sources, much of the problem has stemmed from dismissal time misbehavior by May School students. According to the South Austin Coalition's Theresa Welch, May's principal will attend the Monday evening meeting.
Whatever response comes out of Monday night's strategy meeting, it needs to be put in place quickly. As one May student said to Rev. Livingston recently, "It ain't even hot yet."