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On Wednesday, February 13th, DC Prep’s Anacostia Elementary Campus (AEC) hosted a community conversation on gun violence, featuring Arne Duncan, who served as Secretary of Education under President Obama. DC Prep students and staff, community members, and government representatives took part in the meeting.
The meeting was called in response to increased incidents of gun violence in the neighborhood, including seven rounds fired directly in front of AEC during dismissal. To protect their safety, students at AEC and nearby Ketcham Elementary have experienced four “lockdowns” this year. (A security procedure requiring students and staff to hide in darkened classrooms.) The stresses caused by these procedures were recently highlighted in a Washington Post article.
Mr. Duncan described his work with Chicago CRED, an organization that is tackling gun violence by connecting with young men whose lives have been marked by violence – either as a victim or a shooter. “We have a lot of kids who are trying to survive every single day,” Duncan said. “We have to give them safety to think long term and plan for the future,” he stressed, emphasizing the need to attack the root causes of violence, including joblessness.
Mr. Duncan was joined by AEC Principal Neema Desai and Rahman Branch, the former executive director of the DC Mayor’s Office of African-American Affairs. Raymond Weeden, DC Prep’s Senior Director of Policy and Community Engagement, led the panel discussion and took questions from the audience, including from a DC Prep middle school student who asked what students can do to help stop the violence and contribute to their communities.
Ms. Desai talked about the balancing act of keeping students safe while also honoring their need to be kids. Operations Manager Monique Moore, who is the parent of an AEC preschooler, spoke about the anguish of having to choose between a high-quality education or her child’s safety.
Weeden concluded the meeting by presenting a series of recommended actions informed by conversations with DC Prep families, teachers, and neighbors in Ward 8 that will be presented to the Mayor’s Office. If you would like join us in advocating for a safer community, please add your signature to our online Google petition. We will deliver the signed petition to the Mayor’s office by March 1st. Let’s keep our children safe. The time for action is now.