CHICAGO — Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union president, cautioned that Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old King College Prep student fatally shot last week, shouldn't become just another statistic in the city's violence.
"The prevalence of violence in our streets is starting to reduce the wonderful qualities that kids like Hadiya possess — qualities we all want in our children — to homicide statistics," she said in a statement.
Hadiya was fatally shot about 2:30 p.m. Jan. 29 while hanging out with friends in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park in Kenwood. A gunman emerged from the alley and began firing at the group, hitting Hadiya in the back and another teen in the leg, police said.
In her statement last week, Lewis called for a second war on poverty, arguing that Chicago's youth turn to violence when frustrated by a lack of productive activities and outlets.
"We're living in a society that's completely out of kilter," she said. "Our children feel disrespected and their outsized response is violence."
The CTU president also critiqued the "war on drugs" as too harsh on offenders. She said the effort has been an "abject failure" and only made things worse.
Lewis called for adults to become more involved in children's lives.
"We must guide our children in channeling all of their anger and hostility into something positive, train educators to help parents be successful at what they do and reclaim schools as the anchors of our communities," she said.