Chicago School Closings: Gang Boundaries Consulted By District Amid Student Safety Concerns

Apr 16, 2013 by

CHICAGO — The Rev. Robin Hood stands in front of an elementary school in what’s known as “The Holy City” – the Chicago neighborhood where the notorious Vice Lords street gang got its start decades ago and still one of the city’s most dangerous areas. Half a block away, a group of men hang out in front of a store where they sell dope.

“Someone was shot right there last week,” the anti-violence activist says, motioning to a corner across the street, in front of a restaurant where bars cover the windows.

While he talks, kids spill out of the school at the end of another day. Most head off on foot in small groups – older students with younger ones – walking home past boarded-up buildings and vacant lots strewn with trash.

As Chicago prepares to close 54 schools in an attempt to rescue an academically and financially failing educational system, one of its greatest challenges will be safely maneuvering thousands of students to and from class through the patchwork of rival gang territories that cover large parts of the nation’s third-largest city.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his schools chief, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, have acknowledged the danger of mixing young people from different neighborhoods. Byrd-Bennett agreed in January not to close any high schools. And the district consulted maps of gang lines when choosing where to send elementary students whose schools were closing.

The fear is that younger students may get caught in the crossfire of gang conflicts or be victimized in other ways. Officials know it’s not unheard of for kids as young as 10 years old to be involved in gangs.

The district has dedicated about $16.1 million to expand a program known as Safe Passage aimed at assuring that children arrive safely at their new places of study. The program stations adults to stand watch along key routes and alert police of any problems.

via Chicago School Closings: Gang Boundaries Consulted By District Amid Student Safety Concerns.

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