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On Anniversary Of South Capitol Street Shootings, A Push For Reform

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Exactly one year ago, four teenagers were gunned down by another group of young people.

Authorities say the shootings ultimately began because of a fight over a fake gold bracelet.

For Council Member David Catania, to make sense out of the senseless, you need data and cold, hard facts before you can address a problem.

That is part of the philosophy behind his ambitious plan, the South Capitol Street Tragedy Memorial Act of 2011.

"If we are successful at implementing this, it will be the most comprehensive behavior health infrastructure for young people in the country," Catania says.

Catania says his plan calls for behavior health screening at every level of schooling, even Head Start. It looks to tighten the truancy laws with earlier interventions and penalties for parents. But at its heart, the measure is about collecting data and using it correctly.

"It does me no good to develop, say, substance abuse programs for children who are at age 13, which is the national standard, when I know substance abuse in our city starts at nine," Catania says. "So I've got to align my curriculum and my programs to the reality of my kids."

Catania introduced the measure Wednesday. He says he spent a year crafting the legislation, meeting with lawyers, advocates and others.

But he says the most important voice throughout the process was Nardyne Jeffries, the mother of Brishell Jones, who died in the shooting.

And while the bill would revamp how the District government screens and treats young people with behavioral health issues, Jeffries says others must step up as well.

"There's definitely an accountability in our households. These parents need to grasp their children's at an early age as well, we can't rely solely on the government," Jeffries says.

The legislation would also tighten the city's truancy laws.

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