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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Youth violence becoming a major concern for Milwaukee in 2012

A string of killings involving Milwaukee Public Schools students has the system’s superintendent calling for the community to help combat urban youth violence.

Four MPS students have been killed in off-campus shootings in the past few months. The earliest, Dequan Williams, 18, of Lad Lake School was shot on Nov. 30 near the intersection of N. 36th and W. Vliet Streets and died from his wounds a month later.

Two Bradley Tech High School students, Eddie Ellis and Roderrick Capehart, both 16, were shot and killed on Jan. 4 and Jan. 24, respectively, in unrelated incidents. Ellis was killed in the 8800 block of N. 95th Street, while Capehart was shot in the 3600 block of N. 19th Street.

Most recently, 18-year-old Mark Burt of Banner Preparatory School was shot in the head and killed on Feb. 10 in the 2700 block of S. 12th Street.

In a Feb. 25 opinion piece published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton criticized the silence from the community in regard to the killings.

“I am outraged because the community is not outraged,” Thornton wrote. “Has everyone simply accepted that this is life in Milwaukee now? No other community in this state would stand so quietly in the face of our grim statistic: four children dead in seven weeks. If four boys had died of the same illness, we would cry out for the vaccine.”

According to Thornton, many of the problems affecting students, such as poverty, homelessness, illegal gun ownership and drugs, are felt throughout the city as a whole. Roseann St. Aubin, communications director for MPS, said that these factors have contributed to a sense of “hopelessness” among some students that can sometimes lead to violence.

“We see issues come in from the neighborhood continually,” St. Aubin said. “Homicides, gun injuries, robberies, fights – they are seen in areas of the city where poverty is high, where there is high joblessness and other issues that affect our families day to day. We see a level of hopelessness from some children who are coming from families that are affected so drastically by poverty.”

St. Aubin said MPS’s resources are too limited to deal with all of the issues facing its students and echoed Thornton’s call for increased community involvement.

“We cannot be the only one trying to address issues and support them with the limited resources with have,” St. Aubin said. “Our mission at Milwaukee Public Schools is education. It is not the mental health of children, even though we do try to provide resources for it. We need the help of a variety of community members.”

Such community members include providers of recreation and entertainment for children, the Milwaukee Police Department, the courts, elected officials and students’ own families. St. Aubin said it is often adults from outside the school community who start fights with students and that work was needed to address that issue.

According to Marquette Department of Public Safety Captain Russell Shaw, the last time the university had to deal with a murdered student was during the late 1980s. Today, most violence is composed of student brawls, usually influenced by alcohol.

“We always have a certain amount of batteries, but usually, the batteries are student-on-student,” Shaw said. “Because of parties or being in bars, most of our batteries are related to alcohol.”

Still, although most Marquette students are not directly affected by community violence like this, St. Aubin said college students are one group in the community that needs to get involved.

“The student community can help so much,” St. Aubin said. “We have some student teachers from Marquette. We love their impact on our kids. Our students get to see what it could be like to aspire to college.”

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