Bridging the gap to stop youth violence

MILWAUKEE --The Milwaukee Public School District held a listening session Saturday to address what's been a concerning several days, after more than 20 people were arrested over the past week, following two big disturbances at two different high schools.

The first incident occurred Thursday at Washington High School, where 12 were arrested after MPD responded to a fight. An MPS spokeswoman says outsiders came to the school to pick a fight with students, and says several disturbances broke out inside the building. 12 were cited for disorderly conduct, and two were cited for resisting/obstructing an officer. CLICK HERE for more.

The second incident occurred Friday, at Milwaukee's James Madison Academic Campus near 81st and Florist, where several fights broke out and 11 were arrested. Police say the fights broke out inside the school, and officers on the scene called for help. One officer was kicked int he face by an 18-year-old female student. Eight people were arrested for disorderly conduct, and three for resisting/obstructing an officer.

Additionally, there was a triple shooting near 40th and Lisbon last week, during which two teenage girls and a teenage boy were shot while in a home. CLICK HERE for more.

An MPS spokeswoman says the district has lost four students since December -- three in shootings, and one in a car accident. A 16-year-old was shot and killed last Tuesday near 19th and Finn, and another 16-year-old was killed outside an apartment in the 8100 block of West Villard on January 4th. Both were students at Bradley Tech High School.

Saturday, MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton and MPS School Board Director Mark Sain held a listening session, and heard feedback from parents on how to curtail the fighting, and get back to education. Thornton says it's vital to hear from the community when thinking about what comes next. "Conversations like this, with the right people in the room, certainly allow us an opportunity to zero in on those, and incorporate them into our budget. We're in budget season now, and I think the budget should be more than a series of numbers. It's about setting a direction for the organization," Thornton said.

The listening session involved MPS District One, which covers 18 schools on Milwaukee's northwest side.

Additionally on Saturday, a grassroots movement to reduce this violence among young people began when a "Stop the Violence Youth Summit" was held to bring together young people and adults, and bridge the gap in communication. Saturday's summit was held in the Silver Spring neighborhood.

The summit involved young people like Davonte Hill speaking with community leaders and other adults about some of the problems those in his generation are facing. "It makes you feel powerful when you can do something -- when you team up with a politician and they listen to what you have to say," Hill said.

The Peace for Change Alliance organized the "Stop the Youth Violence" summit with one big goal in mind: "Bridging the gap. We've got the youth and the adults, so they have to bridge the gap. They have to get to know each other, feel comfortable with each other, and let's make it work," summit organizer Tracey Dent said. CLICK HERE to visit the Peace for Change Alliance website.

Dent is working to bring together public officials and young people to “Bridge the Gap” and find solutions to end the reoccurring violence in Milwaukee. Saturday’s summit is the second part of a process following up on the initial summit last September. “Look at what happened Friday night, then Washington High School, the two officers that got hurt. Trying to reduce violence and crime itself is a process. It’s not going to happen overnight. That’s why we’re trying to implement a solution," Dent said.

The process has elected officials, young people and others in the community collaborating together on programs that will go into effect in 2012 to give young people alternatives to violence. “Hopefully they have a better understanding that it’s ok to speak up if you see something happening. It’s ok to speak to a youth. It’s ok to speak to an adult and have that mutual respect. If we can respect each other, I think that’s another component that less crime will happen," Dent said.

Alex James, a 20-year-old who participated in the summit on Saturday, likes the idea. “(Politicians) listening, taking the initiative to take what they heard and put it into action, I feel like that’s very effective and means a lot to us youth," James said.