INDIANAPOLIS — A teacher at a far east side school who almost lost two of her students is fed up with the city's gun violence problem, and she wants Indianapolis leaders to take notice.
The job of a teacher is already complicated, but for teachers like Jennifer Nagle, the lessons in her classroom at Phelan Leadership Academy have become anything but usual.
"I'm up at the front of the classroom here, teaching about independence in 1776, and I've got this great 13-year-old boy trying to take notes with a hand bandaged up with a gunshot wound," Nagle said.
Nagle has taught students for 24 years, leading students in both Chicago and Indianapolis. While each year brings its challenges, the past year teaching on Indy's far east side came with something new.
"I've had two 8th graders in just my homeroom, shot this year. Shot! Fourteen, 13 years old, and they shouldn't have to live through that," she said. "They're kids. Both of the boys were standing in front of their own home in the middle of the afternoon on a weekend."
After spending time teaching at the former John Marshall High School, Nagle knows the east side well and she has seen the area change. But after nearly losing two students in the same year, she wonders why positive changes aren't being brought to the east side.
"My own children go to a school in Noblesville, and were in the school when the school shooting happened and it was a crisis in Noblesville," she said. "Overnight, the schools changed. The community came together, there were rallies and things changed. Why isn't that happening in Indianapolis?"
Nagle believes her students who live in an area that is already struggling need extra help. She said the school is the last place truly serving the far east side.
"There's nothing. There's no grocery stores. There's no places for the kids to hang out. This is their safe spot," she said.
Many of Nagle's students live inside the boundaries of Indianapolis Public Schools, but with John Marshall and Arlington High Schools converted to middle schools, the closest option for many students is Arsenal Tech High School, more than 13 miles away near downtown.
With a new school year days away, Nagle is pleading for someone to help and care about the kids on the far east side.
"Where is the rest of Indianapolis? Where is the mayor? Where are our elected officials?" Nagle asked. "Come out and see us. Come talk to our students and see what they need. Come out and help us help them."
Community Violence Reduction Director Shonna Majors issued a statement in response to Nagle's concern saying “We know that too often, when teenagers should be enjoying their youth and planning for their future, they are instead finding themselves in the crossfire of senseless gun violence. That’s why we are investing time and resources in areas of our city that are most in need.
This summer, we are in the process of hiring two additional Peacemakers to specifically reach out to Indianapolis youth, we’ve expanded our Safe Summer programming to offer fun and safe alternatives while kids are out of school, and our community violence reduction team spends every day in our neighborhoods working to build stronger connections between neighbors while giving residents the tools and resources to uplift their communities. We believe these efforts, along with grassroots community efforts, will help to target the root causes of crime and violence in our community while our partners at IMPD remain focused on holding perpetrators of violent crime accountable.”