"I’ve been going to Fenger for four years. I’m a senior. I think that this is the worst that it’s ever gotten."
So begins a first-hand account posted at Salon on Monday from a 17-year-old Fenger High School student who lives in Altgeld Gardens. And though relatively brief, it's a heartbreaking tale of schools gone wrong and kids who have been failed by adults. No one should have to face these obstacles in order to get an education in America.
"It’s different gangs from different territories: They got 11-9, which is on 119th Street. 12-Trey, which is 123rd. They got the Ville, 11-Trey Crazy, and they got the Gardens. Ever since I’ve been going there my freshman year, I’ve seen people get stabbed in the school, I’ve seen people get cut in the face with a razor blade. Last year, the police Maced the whole hallway during a big fight. When I was a sophomore, the night before prom, a boy got shot. He was playing Russian roulette at his house."
The letter-writer prefers to remain anonymous. But her writing rings true, from the way she describes neighborhood rivalries to her remembrance of the day Derrion Albert died to the stultifying security clampdown at the school since. It is an account of something gone terribly, terribly wrong in our city.
"Mayor Daley is wrong when he says that sending kids from Altgeld to Carver will be letting the gangs decide school boundaries. I don’t like that man. That’s crazy. It isn’t any school boundaries. It’s safety. They’d better not give me no say so with him. I’ll tell him, 'You don’t go to Fenger. You don’t know what’s going on. You’re putting Altgeld kids’ and innocent bystanders’ lives in danger by sending them to Fenger'."
Suffice to say, there is more insight in this chilling post than in all the official pronouncements combined in the wake of Albert's death. We should hear from the kids we talk about more often. And we should hear more from this student in particular.