American Morning

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December 15th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

Walk in My Shoes: Why teens fight

Editor's Note: This week American Morning is examining the causes of youth-on-youth violence across the country. Yesterday, in part one of the series, "Walk in My Shoes," we talked to one of the teens who participated in the brawl that left a 16-year-old boy dead. Tomorrow, we walk to school with two students and witness the dangers they face every day.

Across the country, teen violence is ripping apart families and entire communities. The CDC says 16 teens and young adults are murdered in America every single day, and many are killed by someone their own age.

We wanted to understand why so many are turning to violence. Our T.J. Holmes talked with some high school students on Chicago's South Side to get inside their heads.

T.J.: How many in this group – you can give me a show of hands if you want to – how many of you in the past year have been in a fight? A physical altercation of some kind?

[All students raise hands]

T.J.: All five of you in the past year have been in a fight of some kind?

Kevin: Last September for me.

T.J.: More than one? Anybody in this group?

Gregory: A couple of weeks ago for me.

For these Chicago teens, fighting is a way of life.

Kevin: It's like that every day in school. It's not a day you don't see somebody bumping somebody and get into an argument. Over petty stuff.

T.J.: Why is that so important to be big man on campus?

Kevin: It's the image. People try to keep the image and their reputation. Like if you a big guy you gonna try to keep that reputation. So if somebody bump you gonna automatically say something to them. Because you gonna feel like in your head that you just got treated like a punk.

T.J.: Has anything gotten more serious?

Starnsca: With me once I got jumped. I was by myself. I found myself fighting 15 girls and then they was like, “Yeah ok, we gonna spare your life today” and that scared me.

What these teens tell us is not unusual. In fact, nearly 40 percent of Chicago public school students were involved in a physical fight, according to a 2007 Chicago youth risk behavior survey.

“High school is about young people scrambling for power and influence,” says Lila Leff, the founder of Umoja, a program that, in part, tries to stem teen violence. She says kids are vying for power and prestige – everywhere.

“In some high schools the currency is how much money your parents make. Or what car you're going to drive when you're 16. Or what college you're going to get into because you're taking five AP classes. And in some places the currency is your reputation.”

Because for many of these teens "a reputation" is all they have.

According to the CPS Office of Federal Legislative Affairs, 85% of Chicago public school students live below the poverty line. Gangs, guns and drugs are all too common in poor neighborhoods.

TJ: Have you all witnessed some kind of violence, shooting?

Everyone: I have, I have.

Gregory: It happens every day. And it be mostly over petty stuff.

For these teens, the daily threat of violence is all too real.

T.J.: Woah wait. You all have to carry, you carry stuff around when you're outside?

Starr: I carry a taser and mace.

Amber: I carry a mace, box cutter and scissors.

These teens have developed a tough exterior in order to survive.

“In my house if somebody told you, what you looking at you ain't say nothing back, you ain't fight them, then you a punk. And I hear that 24/7 in the house. If I told my mom I got into an argument with a girl and you didn't fight her, then get yourself out of my scary face then. It's all about the reputation,” says Amber Ward.

An attitude Dr. Carl Bell, an expert on youth violence, says is no surprise.

“The parent is scared something is going to happen to the kid and that fear turns into anger and that anger is transmitted to the kid and the kid is told defend yourself. Because if you are a punk people are going to try you.”

Leff's program, Umoja, tries to change that thinking – teaching students leadership skills to help resolve conflicts without fighting. These five teens say it's helping them.

“I learned how to control myself,” says Amber Ward.

Amber was suspended 15 times for getting into fights during her freshman year. Now a junior, she says she's worked hard to keep trouble at bay.

“I started looking at a lot of situations different. I started looking at a lot of fights different like when people come to me I'm like 'think', I be stopping while we arguing, I'll be thinking am I mad, like ok is fighting her really worth it? You get 10 days out of school and it's not even worth it.

Filed under: Crime • Walk in My Shoes
soundoff (108 Responses)
  1. Dave O

    Sadly, this is nothing new. I grew up in 1980's New York City Harlem and there was some sort of violence between kids/pre-teens/teens on a weekly basis. We is new and disturbing to me is the attitude that some parents have about fighting now. My generation was basically told to fight only when you had to, when there was no other option. Not at the drop of a hat or because someone looked at you strange. These types of parents/families need a wake up call!

    December 15, 2009 at 5:41 pm |
  2. A. Smith, Oregon

    Bush-Cheney gutted critically needed funding to America's Public Schools, Community police departs and Social services for the war effort.

    During Bush-Cheney, Opium production increased in Afghanistan over 300% resulting in a flood of cheap Heroin into rural American city's and into the grade schools in Chicago in the form of cheese Heroin.

    The resulting spike in violence and American citizens not wanting to co-operate with law enforcement is entirely predictable.

    It appears the Republican lawmakers want to strap American taxpayers with 75,000 dollars per prisoner per year rather than pay a total of 35,000 American taxpayer dollars per student to go to college.

    December 15, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
  3. mischa

    OK a lot of people have it wrong they assume that because someone was raised in single parent home that they will get in more fights but it is not the case i was raised in a single parent home and i only ever got in two fights in my hole life and thats 23 years

    December 15, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  4. Scott

    I don't really see this as a teen problem, but really more of a black problem. I went to a high school that was virtually all white. Out of 70 people in my class, 2 were Asian, 2 black, 2 Hispanic, the rest white. This kind of thing never happened. There was maybe 1 minor fist fight a semester, and no one ever got hurt.

    December 15, 2009 at 2:44 pm |
  5. Ric Hartung


    1. Make education a privilege and not a right. If you attend and can't behave and not act as you would if you were attending a college then you’re kicked out and sent to a “vocational” type school.
    2. Create education opportunities for those who do not want to attend school or cannot behave. This is assuming that they tried #1 above and were dismissed.
    3. Require that parents take an active role in education.
    4. Get early involvement in education even if to offer pre-school to children to help teach them early life skills that they will need. Allow the parents in the community in which the children live to be a part of this education. Allow the community to discipline the children as needed. They don't have to be abusive but all actions result in consequences. Set a positive example and show hope for the kids.
    5. Get more positive influences in their lives. If the parents are not doing that...remove the child from the parent and allow volunteers to help raise the child. There are plenty of people willing to help. They just need to know what is needed and know they can make a difference.
    6. Get these kids in before and after school programs that keep them off the street. Again, it has to be parents taking an active role as part of the community to run these programs...don't hand this off to someone else (schools) to take care of.
    Bottom line is the parents have to speak up and take an active role in all this. No amount of money will fix the problem because money only corrupts people. Basic love and teaching will provide everything the child will need to succeed. There are a lot of good teachers in our schools. They are there to teach and not provide discipline and are not in most cases not allowed to do that anyway. Also, if the teacher was able to teach to children who wanted to be taught and parents who supported them what a huge difference it makes. It is working in many places. Stop looking for the government of someone else to take responsibility for you or your children. Be a MAN or a WOMAN of character and do what is right for your child!
    I was born to a poor family with 8 other brothers and sisters. We worked hard every day and got our butts whipped if we got out of line. We laugh about it today but are so appreciative of our parents who made sure we were disciplined, educated, loved, and respectful. Most of all, we were told we could be anything we wanted to be with a good education and hard work!

    December 15, 2009 at 2:21 pm |
  6. B123

    Ok, I am a little skinny white boy that went to middle school literally right accross the projects. They bussed us all the way from the suburbs to the inner city. I never had any problems with anybody, or felt like I had to act tuff. Of course we did have the punks that thought they had some thug image to uphold. And yes there were several fights here and there but it was over dumb stuff most the time. I also went to a high school that is considered a gangster area where I lived. Again my skinny white butt still did not get into a fight. We did have a gun everynow and then at school and your occasional fight. I think this story is getting thrown out of proportion. Of course they are interviewing these kids that are going to blow it up and make themselves sound gangster than they are. Kids aren't tougher these days, they are just stupider!!!

    December 15, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
  7. Terry Morrison

    Mary Bethume once said that the belief that the "Leaders" have in "The People" is exactly how much belief "The People" have in themselves. I am Terry Morrison and I'm an African American. A Black Man that works at the unemployment office as a counselor told me that he isn't a African American. And we wonder what's wrong with our youth. He also told me that the values of Kwanzaa are Man Made (as if other values are not) And we wonder what's wrong with the youth. How many of our professionals are not familiar with African Values? How many can recite the 7 Principals of Nguzo Saba? How many think that it's important? And I'd like to ask "ALL" African American Professionals, Clergy, Civic Leaders, etc etc (Educated Black Americans) what non-religious solutions to the inner problems of Blacks do they know of more thorough than Kwanzaa/Nguzo-Saba/kawaida Theory ? We can't embrace African values if we don't think that we are African. Where does that leave the youth?

    December 15, 2009 at 1:58 pm |
  8. John C

    Real parenting education in these troubled areas is the only way this will ever get fixed. It should start the first time school or whomever notices that little Johnny is a mess. If these parenting classes are not taken seriously then the kids should be taken away. Kids like this become wards of the state in the end, after not graduating high school, getting into crime, etc. We already pay dearly for this, so why not put the money upfront and give these kids a chance before it is too late.

    December 15, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  9. Matt

    Catherine – "The problems of poverty, violence and ultra low achievent will not be resolved until that culture dissolves and people decide to start moving towards achievement by valuing education, hard work, personal accountability and become law abiding citizens."

    You just said it all. This is a GROUP problem and that group does care.

    December 15, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  10. Catherine

    People should remember that instead of fixing blame for the problem, we should just find a way to end it. I vote for a solution approach rather then play the blame game. Nike really got it right: Just Do It ! Political correctness also has to take a back seat. If aggressively targeting middleschoolers on how to obtain and use birth control helps the teen pregnancy rate and/or fatherlessness, DO IT! If outlawing the use of Ebonics (oops, very PC) helps kids get a real job later, DO IT! If taking away kid's priveledge to wear gang-related stuff to school reduces fights, DO IT! Do what works, not what's PC. Why is this so hard?

    December 15, 2009 at 1:13 pm |
  11. Matt

    I have never seen so much bull.
    These kids are punks, because their parents were punks. Do blame anyone but the kid parents. One generation follows the other.

    We will read about this again in a few years. Nothing will change, The punk kids today, will be punk parents tomorrow.

    December 15, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  12. sparethespoilthechild

    This is typical of the demographic. Listen to their proper English. Isn't it wonderful? I would first start with education and if they don't want to learn take them straight to jail. That's where they will end up anyways.Either Jail or some type of government assistance program.

    December 15, 2009 at 1:01 pm |
  13. security man

    Every one of us has some responsibility here. As a school security officer for 10 years I've seen many issues. The key is to create a safe place where the students don't have to physically defend themselves. Give the kids an out so they don't have to look weak in order to back out of a fight. If they can say "I have too much to lose", aka I don't want a citation, they are more apt to walk away. No tolerance policy similar to the NBA. You take a swing you have consequences. Some individuals need to be in the court system for the bigger hammer they carry. The parental problem has already filled books. It's up to the school administration to set the tone for their campus. Gangs came about because of fear, protection in numbers. Take away the fear and they are less likely to join. Mediation is a must. I once had 2 gang bangers play go fish for an hour. By the end of the hour they were using each others names and I never had an issue between the two again. And that was after the one had spit on the other, which could get you killed in some of these instances. In regards to the financial aspect I have seen the rich kids involved in the same activities. Lastly, there are times when removing a student from the school will be all it takes to bring harmony to the campus. Nobody wants that but thats reality.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:58 pm |
  14. Catherine

    It is clear these kids do not see education as a way out of the hell they live in. As one of the people stated in his post, these kids are being raised by a villiage whose culture is violence. The problems of poverty, violence and ultra low achievent will not be resolved until that culture dissolves and people decide to start moving towards achievement by valuing education, hard work, personal accountability and become law abiding citizens. What catalyst is needed to lure these people back into the light will have to be financial. Money is the only prize that will internally drive people to abandon their old ways for ones granting a reward they want. Look at the constant crush of immigrants who learn a new language, adopt new customs and move to a new land to pursue economic opportunity and avoid political persecution. Why can't US poor do the same? Limits on public assistance and other pressures will also help people choose the right path. This is a problem the USA cannot afford to ignore.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:58 pm |
  15. John T.

    No not all of us have gone through this. This isn't a norm, fighting among children is not a proper culture nor is it right, and I didn't say teens because these children do not deserve the right to be called teens or pre-adolescent.

    Reputation? They do not have a reputation, they have lived, what 13-16 years? And most of that was in a crib sucking on a bottle. These children need to be tought discipline, respect for the elderly, respect to there bodies, and respect to each other as human beings and not as animals.

    One thing that I believe should be put back into or should be created is a class that teaches religion. The class should not just teach christianity or judaism but should teach hinduism, taoism and even atheism. This class should teach morals, and virtue, respect and fortitude. Maybe if we show these children that they are not as big as they think they are and put them down to there correct level then maybe they can start earning the right to have a reputation. Until then they are just children and as such should be treated as one.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:56 pm |
  16. paula

    i read the story about teen violence and some comments there after. i would just like to know where the people commenting are living. believe it or not that really does matter. i think a lot of views are exteremly bias. if you knew where these kids came from, what they had to indore every day maybe it would make since why things are the way that they are. imagine waking up and knowing that you could possibly have a knife or gun put to you that day just for walking down the wrong street. then to go into a school where every child from a different neighborhood has the same thought in thier mind..well what do you except to happen? then to think that these children are going home and having viloence incouraged there, it's all that these children know. so i think that question shouldn't be why are they doing this but what do we do to help stop it.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  17. retphxfire

    It sounds like what many of us have been saying is true, this behavior is learned and condoned, even urged, in the home. Whatever the reason parents are behaving like this needs to be addressed with them, not just by talking to the kids. All kinds of programs in schools to tell kids to avoid violence, but if their families are telling them to 'defend their honor' then nothing will change. Parents needs programs and to be held accountable for their childrens actions, there must be consequences for their actions.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:50 pm |
  18. From the Projects

    I have read the comments above and some of them are right on, others are so cynical they shouldn’t event have been posted! “If they like to fight send them to Afghanistan”! What planet do you live on? Or better yet Jean, just go back to it!

    As I see it these situations are allowed to play themselves out in the inner cities, yes I said allowed! Allowed by an unspoken class system here in the United States, a system built on economics. One that allows slum lords to collect government subsidized rent payments for sub-standard housing.

    A system that is build on supporting rural communities through the creation of prisons and the jobs that come along with them. A system that spends more on this prison/jail system then it does on the education system. A system where crime is allowed to permeate and grow in inner city neighborhoods out in the open, by law enforcement and the people who live there. Trust me a person of color couldn’t stand on a coroner in a suburban neighborhood for several hours, let alone night after night and day after day, without law enforcement approaching them. Heck you can’t even drive through some of these suburban neighborhoods at night as a person of color let alone loiter in them without law enforcement contact.

    A system which allows people in these neighborhoods to be prayed upon by lending practices that charge them more for services, where businesses allow their service levels to dip compared to what would be acceptable in suburban areas. Where insurance payments are higher because of the “risk” involved but the people who live there on average earn less then their suburban counterparts.

    A system that is broken, biased and corrupt!

    However all the fault doesn’t lie with the system, we also have to take our portion of responsibility for how we are raising our children.

    When we allow, or even encourage this kind of behavior in our neighborhood we are actually doing more damage to ourselves and our children than the system will ever do.

    When we allow our children to listen to music that disrespects ourselves, our women and our community we are spitting in the face of the hundreds of thousands who came before us in this struggle for equality!

    When we allow drugs to be sold in our community, when we glorify the criminals and the hoods and allow them to commit their crimes in our community, we are basically telling our children “it’s ok to do that; you can be just like them”. When we allow our children to look up to these people, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

    When we allow our children to spend hours playing video games but never require them to read a book we are failing them. When we don’t teach them the importance of education over reputation, we are failing them. When we don’t demand better from our elected officials we are failing them.
    These kids are not “disposable”! They can be taught, they can be saved! They can be productive members of society! They can break this vicious cycle. But they can’t do it without YOU and YOU and YOU and YOU!!!!!

    December 15, 2009 at 12:49 pm |
  19. PS Lefty

    Let me get this straight, you are poor, a bad student, your dad left your family, you are a small time criminal, have illegitimate children well of course when others besmirch your good name you must have at them as any gentleman would do.

    This is not entirely a black thing there are white trash and other races in the same boat but listen and listen good, you are making things worse for yourself, you can't all be kings and DO NOT buy into the BS culture of working minimum wage but living with your moms (yes I did that because that’s how stupid people say it) so you can drive an escalade and play your PS3 on a 55 inch plasma in the 10×8 bedroom you grew up in.

    People joke about the nerdy star trek fan that lives in his parents basement but how about the 41 year old that still dresses in t shirts down to his knees and flat rim baseball caps with no job, no skills in his poor moms crappy apartment? the nerdy star trek fan might be sad but he doesn't produce more of himself that stab people at ATMs.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  20. Tom

    You could replace the word "school" with "prison" and I think the same story would apply. People fighting for reputation and influence.

    When someone feels they have a future, the future is their concern. Not something petty like respect. However if you don't have or feel like you don't have a future, then you only care about what is right in front of you. If someone disrespects you, then you they are taking away the only item of value to you.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  21. TRR

    Face it: there exists in our society a sub-culture whose mores and values are at total odds with the prevalent societal morals. This sub-culture is handed down from generation to generation like a grandfather's watch. It is a ridiculous abstinence of responsibilty to blame the schools for this. The problem stems from a lack of involvement from parents, friends,and the local community as a whole. Only when the nuclear family steps up and begins instilling true self-respect and meaningful values from a very young age will this unending cycle of ignorance cease.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:36 pm |
  22. OrionStyles

    Reading the article and comments is pretty good evidence that this problem will not be resolved anytime soon. There are 2 main points that people should dwell on.

    1) Fallacy one; Negative incentive prevents certain behavioral decisions.
    You can threaten to throw people in jail all you want, it will in no way prevent the majority of the problem cases in changing their decision making process. Most of these personalities that have this problem "live in the monent". If you want them to behave how you expect, you have to give them strong positive incentive. Also, if you take a quick look at the end to end cost of the court and penal system, throwing all these people in jail is not a sustainable solution either.

    2) Fallacy two; These kids can determine right from wrong when these situations are presented to them. Conscious decision making works like this. Your brain does half a second of work and decides on some course of action. You don't get to pick what decisions rise up out of the brain to consciousness, you get to pick to stop it from being carried out. This becomes problematic when all the potential decisions the brain is sending to the consciousness are bad. Looking at the early environment these kids are put through. Is it any wonder what they are thinking is repulsive to those of us who were not put through their environments?

    A 2 year old can be taught to read (look into Glen Doman) when this behavior is properly reinforced. How can you imagine that society is supposed to be able to stem the tide of youth violece when these "problem kids" have had years of negative behaviorial reinforcement before they even reach school?

    The "Not my problem" mentality is not a solution as you will inevitable run across these people as the problem only becomes more widespread (at which point it does become a problem for you). Negative incentive is not a solution or this problem would have already been solved.

    Ultimately the point is to prevent crime, not delay it and make it worse.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:28 pm |
  23. Mark

    Seriously CNN, you call this reporting? You ask a bunch of uneducated and morally bankrupt teenagers their take on violence in their environment? They could no more answer this question with any degree of intelligence than they could about the composition makeup of the moon, to which I'm sure they would respond it was made of cheese. They do not have a clue what causes it and in fact it is their own reaction to it that makes the situation "dangerous". There is no blame here nor is there any government program that will fix it. There is only one "cure" and that is education, which judging by the comments made by the students, they have no intention of taking advantage of. You can lead a horse to water............

    December 15, 2009 at 12:22 pm |
  24. brian hampton

    69% of black kids are from single parent homes. That is the problem. They litter society with kids that have no direction or love. Its not a racial thing its statistics.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  25. Jay

    Alot of you said the parents are to blame; ok, BUT the GOVERNMENT do not allow parents to discipline a child the way a child should be disciplined. How come back in the day, kids where not out of line like they are now. Parents use to whip their butt. Now I am not saying you should whip a child for everything, there are other ways to discipline but when all fails, nothing does it but a good sound whipping. I am of Caribbean descent and that is how island folk do it. The Bible even said, to spare the rod is to spoil the child. So the government better diffrenciate between discipline and child abuse.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  26. Rupert

    To blame the schools is ignorant. The schools didn't get pregnant with a child they couldn't afford or take responsibility for, and they certainly didn't go out and do it repeatedly. These parents want no hand in raising their kids. Many of these are single parent homes, and they want the school to be the other parent. Let the school be the "bad cop" of parental authority. Let the school discipline my kid and the others. Schools aren't designed to raise children. That's what parents are for. But in this case the parents are too busy doing whatever it is they do to pay attention to their kids. Watch any program detailing poverty, misery etc. and see families with 3-5 kids living in squalor. My question is who's the idiot who had 4 kids while living on food stamps? Get your tubes tied or stop having sex. We are enabling entire generations to think it's ok to take gov't assistance and that it's owed to them, that it's not something they should work hard to stop receiving. Why work for something when the gov't will provide? These people could actually lead decent lives if they'd pull themselves out of the gutter and get a good job or education. Instead they worry about "street cred" in school, but I guess it's a good primer for their life in prison.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:16 pm |
  27. Stan Beason

    This country needs to take a serious look at how we are handling youth violence. I propose that we go back to the days where there were boys and girls homes for troubled kids. If the parents aren't willing or capable of raising their youth, those same youth should be taken away from the family and placed in a military (boot camp) style home run by the federal gov and the State. We could start to turn around the lives of these troubled youth so that learn some discipline and get the education they deserve. We have qualified former military personnel leaving the armed forces who have the knowledge and expertise to run these institutions.


    San Diego, CA

    December 15, 2009 at 12:15 pm |
  28. Aaron

    "stupid is what stupid does" these kids are tomorrows criminals, all idiots and the parents are idiots.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:14 pm |
  29. suzy412

    The problem is the students do not have a role model to look up to. The teachers most likely do not care that students are not studying and getting involved in drugs, violence, and gangs. Are teachers making sure that each kid in their class shows up to school everyday? If they don't, do they try to find out why? Even if they do care, the schools are not good enough to provide the education these kids need to move on to better things. If the majority of students live this kind of life, they all accept it as the "way of life." Furthermore, when no one expects anything from then, there is no way to stray from this "way of life." In order to help these kids, everyone has to get involved.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:14 pm |
  30. Don R

    When adverse situations such as these occur, it is almost always because multiple systems have failed at the same time. Poverty has been identfied. Another important component is children having children. Many of these children's mothers are incapable of helping them. The community reminds me of the house mouse. The females maintain the nest (albeit not a very plush one) and the males circulate, copulating as they go. The schools think it is not their problem and when they try to take some responsibility, they are limited by the lack of family support. The law is something else.

    What is the solution? Massive investment of public funds to provide basic nutrition, parenting skills, contraception, remedial training, jobs,etc. Our country is wealthy enough to fix the problem; it only needs the political will. Instead it is spending enormous amounts of money trying to "democratize" the Middleast and feeding a military industrial complex that is consuming us.

    People interested in this might look at what St. Louis, Mo. is doing.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  31. wichitatommy

    i agree with RC. the first ass-whooping would begin at home. the responsible person here is the parent. put the repeat kids parents in jail and take the child out of the offending environment.if i found out that my child was involved with some heathens the first thing i would do is call the school then talk to my kid then beat that ass then find out who the repeat heathens are and let the local system take care of that. if the system fails there is a good chance that i am going to be arrested for dealing with a piece of crap parent. good-luck

    December 15, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  32. East Harlem Survivor

    Wake up folks ... this has been going on in the "hood", since ghettos were created in the inner cities many years ago. The Irish, the Jews, The Poles, The Germans, The Italians, et al, that lived in the inner cities "all" went through it. Almost like a "rite of passage". If you didn't know how to protect yourself or girlfriend, with your were a "punk" or a "sissy". In the ole west you had shoot the hood you had fist fights.

    Once upon a time there was something called "a fair fight", you duked it out, got it out of your system and that was that. No one was pummeled to death and or severely beaten, let alone killed. Usually one never had to fight that individual became best friends. As my gumba friends use to say......"it's all about RESPECT"! Most folks just wanted to be left ALONE!

    The level and quantity of violence that kids are exposed to today, be it movies, TV, electronic media, music, etc at such an early age far surpasses anything previous generations were exposed to on a daily basis.

    Certainly there were irresponsible parents, but they were in the minority. The "Projects" were like a village, most decent law abiding folks (the majority) looked after their own as well as their friends. Y'all wanna blame somebody, start with the S.O.B.'s that enrich themselves by pedaling violence as "entertainment".

    Don't believe there were any "pimps" and "ho's" in Mayberry RFD, Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best, etc. Those folks lived in a totally different environment, that was totally foreign to "us". So when and if you can....leave the Hood....there really is another world out there!

    P.S. The Jefferson Park Boys Club in East Harlem was one of my guiding lights..

    December 15, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  33. Mark

    This is certainly a crisis, but we need to focus less attention on the kids and more on the community and the parents. I found this great article from an educator:

    December 15, 2009 at 12:09 pm |
  34. Tino

    So... being defending their reputations are the only thing they have? Wonderful. I didn't realize being punks was something to be desired.

    I agree with one of the other posts. Send these kids to war and put their hostility to good use. They might actually learn some responsibility and become productive members of society... something they won't do on their own because they have no respect for others. It's all about themselves. How sad and pathetic.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  35. Tim

    It is time to stop making excuses for these young adults. This is not a matter of environment, it is a matter of no control, no discipline and no conscience. I gew up poor too, but we did not get away with pulling stunts like this, our parents punished us, they did not make excuses for us.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:07 pm |
  36. Franklin

    "the only way" – your headline perpetuates the problem.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  37. Zinger13

    The bottom line is that these disfuctional kids burden society now by over taxing the eductional system and in the future when no one in their right mind would consider hiring them for a job and then we'll have to pay their welfare, health costs and incarceration costs. Their false sense of prestige is rediculous.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  38. William C.

    The youth story is one great story. But this lead me to wonder what the parents concerns are and why aren't the parents being held to a sense of responsiblity for the future of the children the brought into this world. Let get a wake up call to the entire family and commmunity. It true in the African American community it does take a hold community to raise a child.Let not looking for the government, law enforcement, schools and low selfestem gangster with no vision to do what we know best to love, encourage, train, lead, take control and become responsible parents to our childern.After more then 200 years of history have we not learned anything. No child left behind I say to those whom have achieve their way out of poverty. Stop thinking only about me and my family but the child next door, The fatherless son and daughter, the grandmother home alone the young teenage mother who know nothing about the child she given life to. Let stop waiting on the government to give a helping hand lets take control of our children, and make a difference. Our fathers before us did just that for us they took a stand. Lead by example. Stop looking for a hand out and make a difference in our lives, our children lives, our community. Its time to forget the bandage lifestyle of America call fill in the and personable neglect.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  39. Joe Smith

    Here we go again. Let's put the blame on everyone else but the child and the family that rised them. It's because their poor, it's because of their environment. No it is because they lack an education and values. The mother's and father's are uneducated. So how are they going to put food on the table and help their own child learn to read and write. Please answer that question for me? If the parents of these children had any values and where educated. We would not be talking about this. When was the last time you heard or saw on the news that police came into a school or home and took books of learning away from these students or from any students regardless of how much money they earn. I don't care how old a book is. It is still going to be able to give a student a basic understanding of knowlege of a skill that they will need to use down the line or give them the basic building block to understand high text information. Simply put, the parents of these students don't care at all they want is a handout from the government . If they did care then they would teach them right from wrong and that an education is very improtant. But once again how can they when they themselves do not have education higher then third Grade. One more thing, this is not going to stop and stop thinking the government can stop it. It just one big cycle and the only way to stop it is to have an education and to teach values. END of Story!

    December 15, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  40. Michael

    What has changed? I graduated 17 years ago and it was nothing but constant fights. It starts in middle school, grade school even. The first time I came home beat up, my father told me to not let it happen again (of course it did), but I sent home a lot of guys the same way. High school fights were so common on the weekends that we knew where we could go to avoid getting caught. College? The bar fights were out of control. I think the difference in the highly publicized incidents, is that it's a group of people on one or two. One on one fights RARELY end up with anyone seriously injured – broken nose, hand, etc., but these groups of people ganging up on one is a different story. This has been going on for ages, for boys, it's part of growing up whether we like it or not. It's disgusting that some of these incidents have resulted in deaths and serious injuries, but I think most of these are out of the norm. Anytime you get a group of young men with high testosterone levels it's going to happen – in the past, now, and in the's human nature.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:03 pm |
  41. Berachah

    Haven't you watched TV lately. That is what is one 90% of the time – Death and Violence. What is the news about "Death and Violence", TV shows are about "Death and Violence". We have failed our children putting more money into war than teaching and investing in them, Children are products of there environment.. We need more school counselors, programs for children, and invest in there future rather than spending 40,000 a year to house them in jails. We as a country and communitiy have failed. We have only reaped what we sowed as a country. It is very sad.

    December 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm |
  42. dje2671

    I have no sympathy for these teens, sorry. The fact that they "bump" each other, and carry box cutters just promulgates and furthers aggressive behaviour. Violence and attitude begets more voilence and attitude.

    These teens state that all they have is their reputation. Well, what is that going to get them? If they spent as much time worrying about their studies as they do on their "rep", they might break the cycle.

    Sorry, but these teens are just ignorant.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  43. Melanie

    This is an ongoing cycle passed on from generations. There needs to be a stopping point before these children are hurt even worse. I do believe that its fully the parents responsibility that they are this way. And for the parents to allow this and wanting their child to defend themselves. What is the age of the students that are starting to experience this? If they are 5 years old, its YOU, the PARENT, to defend your child! There needs to be more programs to stimulate these children to keep their minds off of "saving their reputation". They have NO reputation! Their job is to go to school and get an education. They want change in their lives, they have to work for it and violence is not going to fix anything. The schools too need more structure and discipline. Suspending a kid is not working, try something else.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  44. Columbia

    Well, at least I'll never have to worry about one of these kids taking my job away from me. Job security. You can all stay in Chicago and kill each other while the rest of us continue building useful lives and communities somewhere else. Some people..young and old, black and white...just never get it. If bad behavior is what you value, keep it in your community. It's a free country. You have the right to be just as much of a fool as you want to be. Poor people who have babies should be neutered.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  45. Lindsey

    What this article fails to mention is that this is culturally ingrained in low-income youth from a very young age. I am a teacher in a very low-income school. My students have no concept of what it means to control your anger. In their homes, they are actively taught that if someone makes you angry, you should hit them. This is not just a teen problem, it is a cultural problem. It stretches across races. The common denominator seems to be living in a very low income, gang-ridden and violent area.

    You will see very little improvement in violence among teens unless you first start teaching young children to change how they respond to getting angry. By the time these kids are teenagers, the habit of violence is long ingrained in them. Stop it young, or you run the risk of never being able to stop it at all.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:49 am |
  46. Jack

    Simple math: 90% of the kids who are considered at-risk have no male influence or role model at home. It essence, they are fatherless. Every stat shows that this one attribute shows a higher risk of doing drugs, dropping out of school, and going to jail. If you want to truly help, find and partner with local programs that seek to establish positive role models in the lives of these kids. I've been involved in mentoring for 6 years with an organization that is on the front lines in Chicago. Be part of the solution: true, honest mentoring relationships. Give each kid something to hope for.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  47. guns are not the answer

    I have lived in chicago all of my life. I went to a chicao public highschool. While growing up in the city, my parents were both factory workers. While I would not go as far as to say that my family lived in poverty, I will say that my parents did a wonderful job teaching me and my other siblings that if we wanted to do better in life, we needed to get an education. My parents always did anything that they could do to provide a better life than they had. That meant making certain that all of their children received a higher education. The parents of these children today need to be accountable for the way that their children act. In my opinion, it is the lack of parenting that has gone on for many years. The problem begins with teenagers having children. These teenagers may already be living in poverty and the moment they begin to have children, they too will live in poverty because it's the way of life that they are all too familiar with. Teenagers can barely make good decisions. Children taking care of children is where this problem begins. The next time I see a news report about a child that has been murdered by anoither child, it would be wonderful to see the parent of the child murderer in jail with them.

    Parents out there with a kid, do your job and be a parent. Be a father or a mother. Teach your child how to be a decent human being.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  48. Leigh

    Someone commented that we've all gone through this. Ah, don't think so. My husband has never been in a fight. I was in one in 6th grade and it was a shoving match that ended with us being friends. I grew up in Philadelphia, went to public schools mostly in the 80's.
    You know what I had? Good parents. then, because of this, I made good choices and had good friends.
    What needs to be done is the kids from good families who see school as a place to get an education should be given the opportunity to attend the better schools. School shouldn't be a right. you want to act like an animal you get put into a school with the rest of the animals. School choice is the only way to protect the kids who want to be educated.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  49. jessica

    I think the way these kids act is definitely related to their home environment and their values. They don`t see anything wrong with fighting in school because they dont know any better. In the area where these kids live they see alot of things and take being disrespected personally because of where they come from. It all has to do with where you are raised. The environment in which you are raised is going to determine your values and what you see as important in life. By the way infinite thought it`s not just URBAN teens anymore it`s pretty much most teenagers that cant seem to differentiate between a simple unintentional shoulder bump and an actual shove. I grew up in a pretty affluent neighborhood and they fought just as much as the "urban" kids. The only difference was that they fought for different reasons. The rich kids take it to court with mommy and daddys lawyers while the "urban" kids use weapons.Also more affluent school districts can cover it to whereas "urban" schools dont.

    As a school teacher in an urban area I can say that this is important information because it`s important to understand why kids arent being as successful as they should be. Schools are no longer walk in take a lesson and go home, there are so many more issues to take care of before learning can be done. CNN you are doing a really great job with this, it`s time people(parents) open their eyes to the kind of children they are producing and the kind of children their kids go to school with.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:47 am |
  50. Jay ferguson

    Not just teens but people in their 20s and 30s seem dumber and more violent than ever – I can’t believe how many ignorant buffoons I’ve met over the last few years who are dreaming of becoming MMA fighters. Nearly every city in America is filled to capacity with these ‘walking heaps of garbage’ that can barely talk or read, but spend their lives trying to perfect their punches and armbars (often on innocent people) so they can get the' tough guy' respect they so desire. It's embarrassing, we are quickly becoming a 3rd world country.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  51. LESTER

    It is the parents responsibility to teach their kids the difference between right and wrong.The people in this country need to quit looking for a bail out and get off you butts,get a job and get off welfare.Most of the people that live in these type of communities are being supported by our tax dollars.I have to take a drug test to get a job to support these animals,why do they not have to take a drug test to receive and spend my tax dollars.I have taught my children that if you want something in life you hve to be willing to work for it.These kids in this article and similar articles were more than likely not taught that way and are always pointing the finger at some one else,and looking for a hand out from the government.The fix for the problems in these families lies in the mirror.It is also strange that when the population shifted form 40% black to 80% black the crime rate increased,but I guess that is the white mans fault too.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  52. Buck Jackson

    Parents fail, teens fight. This a parenting (or lack of) problem and related to income. This is evident in my own teens sports events. When we have away games, our visiting stands are more populated with family and fans than the stands of the home team. The other teams regularly display poor sportsmanship and behavior and 9 times out of 10 are the source of any fights.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  53. KC

    Anyone with ideas for solutions? While the argument about who to blame is entertaining, it solves very little. Obviously putting schools districts in a choke hold isn't working. That never really was the root of the problem anyway. Do we limit parents' rights? You can mess up your kids quite a bit and there will be NO consequences. It's your right as a parent! We really need a cultural renaissance where people take pride in their character and strive to be good, successful most of America used to be. However, I don't think one could write that into legislation.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  54. CJ

    This is ridiculous. Parent need to teach there children to take responsibilty for there own action. Student choose to promote violents in there environment. If they will simply use common sense. I believe every student in that school need to look at there self and ask there self what are you accomplishing by fighting. These behavior issue started in there earlier year, and to only get a handle on issues. It starts with there parents and earlier childhood. I

    December 15, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  55. KLJ

    The issue of teen fighting is not just a black or inner city problem. It occurs in the surburbs and white neighborhoods as well. Just recently, a young white teenager was attacked by a male white teenager because she did not like some singing group. A number of students stood around egging this knucklehead on.

    There is no question that parents need to step up their game. But, it will also require teachers and school administrtors to step up as well. The broader community also needs to step up. We all have a stake in this battle and let's not hide from the fact that this issue is a battle!

    December 15, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  56. brightstarr

    This article is disappointing. Why is the focus solely on black teens?

    December 15, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  57. asd

    I am in high-school and teens don't have to fight for their reputations and a single instance of such activity would result in serious trouble from the school and would be condemed equally by the parents and the society at large.

    The problem is CULTURAL. These kids are maybe forbidden from fighting by the school but their parents and immediate society mostly do not care and sometimes even CONDONE such activity. The school is POWERLESS unless the it is in agreement with the community and in this case, it is not. Too bad. I am glad I live in a community where violence is not considered an effective way of dealing with any problem.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  58. james CT

    it takes a group effort to raise a child well.

    good parenting+ good schools + good community = good child

    no one of the above mentioned raised any of us alone, so its not logical to place blame on any one.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  59. Mr. Oblon

    It seems most people will only talk or comment about the situations our youths face all over the country. It is true that the vast majority of the challenge is the parents and their lack of parenting skills, but this is simply due to generations of no Life Skills being taught in the first place. The Teen Success Network was created to deal with these challenges head on with no excuses and no blaming, just plain resolution in mind. We must all work together to help the youth of tomorrow or if you think it's bad know, wait another generation. We are looking for parents and teachers who want to help curb and change the environment all youths have to deal with, not only in the lower income neighborhoods, but everywhere. Come to the website and contact us to participate in your part of the country to help make a difference. Let's stop just talking about it and actually do something about it. It's not about you, it's about how many lives you can change and the more lives you change, the more your life will change.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  60. Captn Obvious

    Maybe their fathers could intervene and offer some discipline. Oh, thats right. They aren't around. They're too busy "thuggin' and pimpin". Society should not be responsible; they should!!!

    December 15, 2009 at 11:32 am |
  61. catapult

    Teens fight because violence is cool. Check out the media, sports, history books. In the US, violence has long been an accepted way of getting what you want or getting even. We are a violent people; it's that simple. In some European nations such as Germany and France, teens are following our lead and it's big news over there. Now it's a global problem, not merely a national disgrace.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:30 am |
  62. Fred Jackson

    If you put youself in these kid's shoes, imagine the constant threat of violence and confrontation you would endure. Put Joe Lieberman, and the whole US Congress back to childhood and let them grow up in a Chicago poor neighborhood bordered by class power and privilege, excluded from equal education, living in households where human dignity like "Precious" is unheard of. You would see a vast change in the way this country prepares its kids for the future, a future of productive work, decent neighborhoods, drug and alcohol free, and protected against the criminal elements that ravage all of our cultures.
    The American culture has lost the nerve to look at itself with honest and see itself in the mirror of injustice and selfishness that has bred the poverty and violence. It's not a Christian culture, it's a Godless culture.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  63. Devin

    What these kids need to do is stop fighting and learn to use proper grammer!

    "Like if you a big guy you gonna try to keep that reputation. So if somebody bump you gonna automatically say something to them. Because you gonna feel like in your head that you just got treated like a punk."

    "And it be mostly over petty stuff."

    "With me once I got jumped. I was by myself. I found myself fighting 15 girls and then they was like, “Yeah ok, we gonna spare your life today” and that scared me."

    “In my house if somebody told you, what you looking at you ain't say nothing back, you ain't fight them, then you a punk. And I hear that 24/7 in the house. If I told my mom I got into an argument with a girl and you didn't fight her, then get yourself out of my scary face then. It's all about the reputation,”


    December 15, 2009 at 11:29 am |
  64. Olive Salih

    Children Learn what they live. During the !978 admiistration, the Fcc was invaded, all legislation and cautions that my parents and community seriously organized to protect the children and the national and World Communit were abolished by the Regan administration. Families were destroyed those who were strong were challenged byhumansituations,jobs adeuate saleries and Drugs that children and their families were NOT responsible for its Creation. They were plagued by them..The net work odfvilioent cartoons were exagerated to the point of inhuman capabilities..How Cruel..America, America God gave life to Thee with Brotherhood and family hood from sea to shining Sea....Lets reclaim our humaness that was designed and given to us by divine intervention to live in Peace and Creativity for Human Beings...........Technology can be used for the betterment of Human Beings...The Airways Belong to the People.....Let us Reclaim our Humanity !

    December 15, 2009 at 11:25 am |
  65. Austin Murray

    Its a Ghetto thing.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:24 am |
  66. james

    also I'd like to note that parents are a great source of education for a child. If mom or dad is represent'n with voilence then child will likely too. I've scene it first hand in rougher neighborhoods i've visited.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:22 am |
  67. infinitethought

    so this report is about why teens fight...or why URBAN teens fight?? If its analyzing the must dig deeper than this front of "reputation"...

    December 15, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  68. RC

    This is ridiculous. People need to take personal responsibility. It's not the school system or the government's fault. No government program is going to fix this. The solution starts in the home. Teaching children their self-worth is derived from more than reputation. It is up to parents and family to instill values in children.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  69. FN Jerk

    Stupid! Just Stupid! Its pretty sad that these kids are more worried about their reputations than their grades or self-respect. Way to go Chicago inner city parents! You are a beacon of light for us all.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  70. Smart person

    The solution in these dangerous areas is to try out schools where the students are allowed to have hidden video recorders in their clothes. This way no student would be sure he was not being recorded and then they could sue for even the most minor assualt. They also need some kind of bulletin board or tipline that is anonymous– but it must be untraceable or it will be all but useless at preventing conflict. An added bonus to this is you can find the school which have corrupt administrations easier– most likely it is the ones who find some excuse NOT to have an untraceable tip line or bulletin board.

    Also it maybe be useful to have some kind of place where they are allowed to wrestle or box with rules and under supervision, so that they can find out who would win if they got in a real fight. This can help avoid conflicts.

    Also these kids seem to be kind of stupid when it comes to diplomacy, as do their parents–"If I told my mom I got into an argument with a girl and you didn't fight her, then get yourself out of my scary face then."

    Perhaps some kind of training in the most clever methods of dealing with adversaries would be good for them, as it appears they have not even discovered the wisdom of not crossing the line from verbal arguments to phsycial assault.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:19 am |
  71. james

    it seems lack of education is one of the primary causes to these problems. This generation, and the generation before seems ignorant to the ways of the civilized world. Sadly violence is in all communities, even the highest of caliber. However it is not the norm like it is here. Id guess there is a positive correlation between those that are violent and those that are illiterate. and they could build future generations of children that receive sub-par educations, and resort to voilence. I bet the kid with straight A's doesn't bank his reputation on his toughness. I guess its hard to focus on education when there is no food on the table or a weapon in your face, but this seems to me like a root cause of these problems.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:19 am |
  72. skye

    It is sad, really sad. These kids go to school to learn, so they can get out of whatever situation or area they live in. It's unfortunate that they also have to deal with a war zone campus in order to get their education. I live in So California, and my daughter is constantly threatened, harassed, intimidated, and fearful. When the parents step up and don't back down at the schools administrators wave off, maybe things will get better. Parents need to be even more active, I know I have and she is back on her way being happy at school, and I am a little more relaxed about her being there.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:17 am |
  73. Felista

    As a mother I'm deeply sadden by all of this. I live in the country and grew up here. My husband however did not. He too experienced a lot of what is in your report. I feel that we as adults need to step in and save these communities. Instead of bailing out banks maybe we should be using that money to have an officer on every block corner. Use the money to build after school programs where kids may study and be safe. Use the money to create programs that teach non violent resolution methods. There are many ways our government and fellow Americans should be helping today's youth. All students have a right to go to and from school without fear! Please keep reporting on this. Make our children the head lines in media not Tiger Woods and his pathetic personal life! The more you report the more likely people will want to step forward to help these children!

    December 15, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  74. Matt

    Most pointless reporting topic ever. Next installment: Why aren't teenagers best friends with their parents? Why do kids not like homework? Or maybe CNN can do some in-depth reporting on the elderly. Why do they play golf? Why do retirees eat dinner so early? You would think CNN's producers are new to this planet; or just really detached.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:13 am |
  75. Karen

    MIke-sey: Mike-Sey, with all due respect, bull. America isn't failing anyone. These kids' parents are. I'm so sick of "society" being blamed for other people's poor choices/screwed-up lives. They are given free education, free housing, and free food. If they choose to sire children at 12, that is neither my fault nor my problem. This seems harsh, but it's the truth. You can't make terrible choices generation after generation and then scratch your head and wonder what happened. You're also not allowed to say, "Eureka! It's America's fault!" As far as the ghastly Health Care bill Americans don't support by almost 2-1, that has nothing to do with this, but nice try. These children aren't animals, they're human. They know basic right from wrong. Stop making excuses for them.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:13 am |
  76. George

    TJ Holmes. Americans are outraged by you giving a plat form for young people to tell the world its OK to kill some one in a fight. In your walk in my shoes segment yesterday, you seem to agree with the boigot that your interviewed that its Ok to kill some one in a fight. I thought CNN was a responsible new organ. You could not even look at this idiot in the face and tell him no matter what the circumstance, what his brother did was wrong. The idiot speaking also be in jail. I dont know why he is walking the street and ready to start another fight.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  77. Richard

    Healthcare has nothing to do with terrible parenting. These children lack good parents.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:10 am |
  78. G Zero

    As a Los Angeles Teacher, I have to say poverty has and will always dictate the level of violence in these students lives. What they need are opportunities beyond the gangs and drugs in their neighborhoods. P.S. It's not the school's responsibilities to raise these children, it's the government's responsibility to keep their community safe and full of economic opportunity.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:09 am |
  79. robin robin

    I think that was a very good report that was on a growing-up of the

    December 15, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  80. asoukup

    These kids and their parents are animals its not that hard to figure out.How about if everybody just settles down and try acting like a civilized human being.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:06 am |
  81. jenn

    forget the "schools are failing"....just listen to how these kids discuss their home lives and the way their parents interact with them and you can totally understand why they are violent. this behavior is learned in the home and mom and dad (if there is one) do nothing to condem it. if you pop a kid out, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure the child doesn't grow up to be a felon. not mine, not the schools, not the government, it is YOURS!

    December 15, 2009 at 11:05 am |
  82. James

    I was driving home last night listening to Sirius Radio and I had CNN on which I usually do. They were talking about the problem in Chicago with the violence. What I'm tired of hearing and its from all over the country is that people keep saying that we need better schools. I have one question, where is the parent equation!!!! No one ever says anything about the parenting. Its like its some taboo area we cant touch. I don't care if you have the best computers in the world, the newest textbooks and the teacher from Harvard, if the parents are talking to their children at night and teaching them good morals then what is the point of a better education. On top of that, if parents aren't helping them with their homework and stressing to them an importance of an education, again what is the point of a better schools. Everyone wants to point blame somewhere else and it seems like schools always get the blunt of the blame when it comes to violence and youths. We need to stress better parenting in this country and not with some commercial about it. There are many examples out there of kids being raised successfully in inner cities by parents who care; black, white, Asian, whatever. Quit blaming the schools solely for this problem!!!

    December 15, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  83. T

    I grew up in Boston and went to the public schools, and my high school was 80% black and the rest mixed asian, hispanic and white. These fights were an everyday occurance, this isn't something new. Every generation thinks it has it worse then the ones before it. In these schools they put 2000-3000 kids together, but even worse now, to save money, they decide to combine schools and make them even larger, making it nearly impossible for a kid that just wants to learn, and get through the day. Because if you get beat up once, then it happens over and over again, so you HAVE to fight, and you HAVE to win, and that takes going one step further then the person you are fighting. That is why is seems so extreme to everyone that didn't go to a school like these.

    How is it that these kids are in High School, and I can barely understand the words that you are wrote, that apparently are their words, verbatum.

    PARENTING people! PARENTING! We need to figure out why parents are not teaching their children manners and respect, or just simply the value of others lives.

    December 15, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  84. ed

    america failing these kids? BULL.....these kids are failing america....nobody makes them act like they do...not environment...not health care.....just a simple lack of decent character......the only people failing these kids are their mamas and absentee daddies

    December 15, 2009 at 10:44 am |
  85. RodeoJoe

    There are many nice people and places in Illinois, and there are also some dangerous places with violent people. Steering wheels save lives.

    December 15, 2009 at 10:29 am |
  86. Terry, TX

    I notice with all the conversation.... parental responsibility .... is not even mentioned.

    Fighting should never be an in-school suspensions.... should be jail time removal to an alternative discipline school setting.... the police should be called for every incident ...this is violence.... just as domestic violence or on the street.... I work in a school that follows this policy and it is successful. I bet you these Chicago schools don't even have a TIP Line that student's can cause anonymously to report potential violence or drugs.

    We need to get off the soap box....and make a stand in our schools.

    December 15, 2009 at 10:28 am |
  87. Kendall

    It's not America that is failing these children it's thier parents. If these parents treated these high schools as a place of higher learning and not a free baby sitter than these children will have a different outcome. How can we expect these children to care and be positive when at home their moms, dad, aunts uncles are selling drugs, drinking excessively and behaving the same way. The best thing to do if a parent doesn't want their children in this envirnment is to better themselves and move away. Other wise they'll always deal with the ghetto version of Lord of the Flies. I don't want to seem insensitive but that what I get, I grew up in Little Rock,AR I seen it before

    December 15, 2009 at 10:23 am |
  88. Makeda

    I really do not see this has a teen problem but a human problem. Everyone wants to be the best, the superior one, and we go to any means to get there: either working hard or cheating and stealing. We drive ourselves in debt to have the best to look the best. Likewise these children fight in order to sustain being the "best' and being fear. Respect is something everyone craves and respect comes with being the "best" one and sadly we will do anything, like participate in violence, to gain and sustain it.

    December 15, 2009 at 10:20 am |
  89. mominwa

    Wow. How incredibly ignorant and sad.

    December 15, 2009 at 10:14 am |
  90. Hasan Merchant, Toronto, Canada

    I wish to congratulate you Mr. Holmes on touching this sensitive topic wherein you have touched the lives of youth. No doubt, with this you will expose as to what goes on in the minds of the youth and portray an evil society that we are in today but will probably leave the canvas without touching the base or elaborating as to why this exists and escalates as the time goes by. I have always been an advocate of putting on the table at least two solutions to an issue… … What solutions do you wish to propose at the conclusion of this issue on amFIX.

    What I see so far in your series of these talks….. one of the teens Gregory said that some people having things going on inside their family so they hold the anger and vent it out on another person and likewise another teen Amber said that they get teased and taunted at school and with that anger they go home where there is no food ….and many such talks leads to only one thing and that is poverty. In your report you yourself have indicated that “Eighty Five percent of Chicago public school students live below the poverty line”, hence the major cause is poverty or rather I would say deprived of opportunity to earn their livelihood. But the positive factor that I see in these teens is the level of energy and the ability to confront the issues.

    How this can persists in an industrialized society such as that of the United States on whose every action depends the global economy and to whom the leading nations look and leach on for their own progress. Where have the strategist, planners and the governors gone wrong or is the state been taken over by the corporations whose only motive is to make profit for the shareholders at whatever cost.

    The energies of these teens could be channelized and used for the economical, social and cultural development of the societies, cities and the state as a whole. Poverty level can diminish by providing these youths with jobs that can be done here in the country itself rather than out-sourcing it to the east and helping their economy to thrive. One cannot eat the cake and have it too. Corporations in the verge of making maximum profits and distributing fat bonus have deprived these youths of their rightful living. This has been since long and these youths although from the roots of the hard working and labor class, had been left without directions to channelize their energies and support their family income. Since long they have been loitering around on the streets and hanging out in the malls. These young and fertile minds, then, are taken over by the social evils and the dark angels of the corrupt world and indulge either in drugs or other immoral acts which deludes their own reputations and family names and become a part of the decaying society.

    The remedy to the causes which the present day societies face is not a short term or may not go away by these series or some shows or some movies but it is a process that should be enjoined by the city managers, academicians, corporations, churches or moral sciences institutions and together they should devote their best and channelize these abundant energies that we have in our teens and youths.

    I have to be within the limits that this blog can allow me to write……I wish and pray for the global harmony, peace and progress in all spheres.

    December 15, 2009 at 9:12 am |
  91. Frank

    I saw your report on teen violence and have a few remarks. First up, being harrassed, threatened or outright attacked isn't a conflict resolution scenario. 2cd, Given how hostile the school evironment they are forced by law to be in is, self-defence should not only be taught, consideration should be given to allowing students to arm themselves for their own protection. 3rd, the various psychologist/sociologists(whose professions are voodoo sciences) tremendously underate the level to which teens should be held. They rise, or descend, to the level expected of them. They are far more sophisticated and able to handle things than given credit for. Finally, my advice to high schoolers is skip the travesty known as high school. Drop out, teach yourself to the level of an equivilency diploma(and beyond), and head straight for college. The first chapter of Heinlein's "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" is a good place to start.

    December 15, 2009 at 9:10 am |
  92. A.Chenoweth

    Unfortunately, the reporting on this story is incomplete. My wife used to teach special ed in high school in Va, and the kids, black and white, had been horribly abused all of their lives by their low IQ parents. Unable to create a structured or disciplined life at home, they would let everything go wild but suddenly lash out and beat their kids around the head until they got peace and quiet again. The result was head trauma, even in the youngest children entering the system. When they came into my wife's classroom, many of them had not only low IQs of 40 to 80, which would leave them incapacitated anyway, but they were also "morally retarded," to use Deepak Chopra's phrase, and were suffering as well from some kind of low-threshold brain trauma. So, why do kids fight? For the same reason that they fail in schools, fail in languages, and, frankly, fail to thrive. Abused and abandoned, they are not raised by a village, they are raised by others like them. As long as the reporter continues to stress the failure of the schools, he is failing as a reporter–as with alcoholism, drug abuse, and other social ills, the brunt of responsibility lies with the individual and their family of origin. The reporter needs to be more direct and real about what has gone so wrong–because, as my wife used to say before she left the profession to save her sanity, these kids are not made violent by the schools, they arrive already primed for violence by their parents.

    December 15, 2009 at 8:55 am |
  93. Buddy Williams

    Teen Violence? Why the stats have grown? There's NO single answer, but many facts contribute to this issue.
    Naming one: Instead of media outlets always asking those involved, the question 'WHY'?,,,,,,Ask if they know the 'true' consequences. In other words, 'When such violence is met with an appropriate Justice System, We in America shall see a cease in violence among teens.
    Summary: They don't have to recognize a system of correction and law. Our System allows 'a slap on the hand' as punishment, therefore, what's to loose?
    The ONLY solution is for 'those of a Justice System, to Enforce the Justice System.'
    Our lawmakers 'have no problem' creating many forms of law & justice daily, mostly for personal interests. Start at the 'top', and the 'bottom' will be resolved.

    December 15, 2009 at 8:46 am |
  94. Jim

    Fighting to protect a reputation? What reputation do teens have to protect? If they think reputation is another word for honor, then it's dishonorable to fight over words. People outside of the family should not be teaching what teens need, parents should be doing their duty. And to think that a teen's brain has no "brake pedal" is giving them an excuse to behave the way they do.

    December 15, 2009 at 8:43 am |
  95. Ric Hartung

    In addition, it is not up to the schools to correct behavioral problems...that are a parental responsibility. Also, money does not solve problems it is the root of all that is causes corruption just look at our federal government. They think money fixes everything but only causes more problems such as terrorism, hatred, and corruption. As I stated earlier, the real problem is the lack of parental influence and in some cases abandonment!

    December 15, 2009 at 8:38 am |
  96. jean

    What to do about teen violence?
    Since they like to fight so much put a uniform on them and send them over to Afghanistan and let them fight the Taliban. They should enjoy that since they like violence and fighting so much

    December 15, 2009 at 8:38 am |
  97. Ric Hartung

    Most of fighting stems from lack of parents that care. You discussed some teens that have to take big detours to get home safely. I would not let me child go home by themselves and would do something to help them? Where are the parents and why do they not care?


    December 15, 2009 at 8:33 am |
  98. mike-sey

    All of us have gone through this. Fortunately for most us the environment that influenced our behaviour was rarely lethal. No question, America is failing these kids when it comes to their environment, and a good example of how is folks like Senator Joe Lieberman who care only about their own and are prepared to scuttle Health Care Reform with a public option, a key components of a decent environment for these kids..

    December 15, 2009 at 7:50 am |
  99. Bill

    I graduated from RA Waller High School (Chicago Near North Side) in 1963. The environment at that time was basically the same, with ongoing fights...many between the white and black populations. Waller HS went from being 40% black to 80% black. The graduating class following mine (1964) celebrated by smashing cars, windows and other people when they returned to their homes in the nearby black housing complex. This problem appears to me to be a situation that has been going on for a very long time that can only be solved by changing the culture, as well as the environment.

    December 15, 2009 at 7:44 am |
  100. Frank

    Saw your report which is a good news topic in reference to all the others, i.e.; others such as the Tiger Woods story. In this latter report, you are implying that the schooling system may be failing a good part of the future generation. I find really ironic, that on of your topics following this one was your over simplistic report on Islamic banks where you have concluded that without interests banks would not make a profit, as if the cost of funds is all profit and as if bank fees do not play in the equation. Far from me the ideal to go into depth with respect to the basic economic principles. However, my point rather is : is the schooling system failing future generations, or is the media failing American society with the lets take the populist approach for commercial purposes.

    December 15, 2009 at 6:44 am |
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