(The Center Square) – Violence Interrupters Executive Director Tio Hardiman is speaking out about rising violence after three Chicago Public Schools students were slain just steps from their schools’ front doors over the past month.
“It’s time for a cultural shift right now,” Hardiman told The Center Square. “Violence is a normal way of thinking. There needs to be a cultural shift where all the academic people organize together to design a curriculum we can push to change the way we think about one another.”
Three Chicago Public School students have been killed and two others injured in recent shootings as they left class.
On the North Side, 16-year-old Senn High School student Daveon Gibson was killed by gunmen in the 1200 block of West Thorndale on January 31. Two other students were injured in the shooting, which police called “targeted.”
Just days earlier, 17-year-old Monterio Williams and 16-year-old Robert Boston were both gunned down as they left the Innovations High School building in the Loop.
No arrests have been announced in connection with the crimes.
“Violence has become the norm,” Hardiman said. “The more brazen and the more outrageous the crime may be, it gets them some type of brownie points in the neighborhood in which they come from. A lot of young guys are being hunted down by individuals that stalk the social networks to find out where they’re going to be at one time or another. It’s all a part of the cycle of violence.”
In the past month, Violence Interrupters mediated at least four other conflicts that could have led to more bloodshed at other high schools, Hardiman said.
“We specialize in stopping the killings,” he added. “We’re willing to work with anybody. I’m willing to collaborate. Chicago is my hometown and it’s time we reduce the homicide rate.”
He said he wishes Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson would have consulted with more people in the community before publicly throwing his support behind a plan to remove uniformed police officers from the city’s high schools.
“We’re dealing with a gun violence epidemic,” Hardiman said. “When you have kids being shot right outside in front of the school and murdered like that it puts me in the mindset of how the mafia used to hit people in the old-school mafia days back in the 1930s when they ride up and kill people. I believe that decision to take the police out of the schools was not a real good decision.”
Hardiman is also pushing for money to hire up to 1,000 teenagers across the city to join his group in working for peace.