Alternative schools bear the brunt of student deaths in Chicago

Kalyn Belsha and Cayla Clements:

While many CPS students have lost a classmate to gun violence, staff say it’s especially common in alternative high schools.

Some 425 Chicago public school students died between the 2013-14 and 2016-17 school years, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis of student transfer records. One in four attended an alternative high school, though these schools accounted for only around 2 percent of the district’s enrollment in that time period. Most of the alternative high schools where students died had a student body that was nearly all African-American.

CPS recorded 160 student deaths by gunfire in those years. It’s unclear if this is a comprehensive count, as district officials didn’t explain how they tracked shooting deaths. In response to a public records request, officials declined to say how many of these students attended alternative schools, saying doing so “has the potential to re-traumatize students and the community.”

These numbers don’t come close to capturing the damage wrought to families by gun violence, or the magnitude of loss felt by staff and students when a schoolmate is killed. They don’t include shooting deaths of recent graduates or dropouts. They don’t include students who were shot but survived.