Chicago students march for 'Safe Passage'

April 9, 2013 4:10:21 PM PDT
There was a whole lot of walking at some schools around Chicago on Tuesday.

Some walked to prove that it is not safe for students at closing schools to have to walk longer routes to their new schools, while others walked to prove that it is safe.

Still unhappy about Chicago Public Schools' proposed school closings for next year, close to 100 students, parents and community activists walked from the West Side's Ericson Elementary, which is on the list of school closures, to Sumner, its designated receiving school..

"We have to go through a neighborhood that has four different gang factions," said parent Cynthia Johnson. "It has a number of abandoned buildings. It has approximately 134 sex offenders that are registered in that area."

"You have to go past busy streets, with no crossing guard there," said parent Sonya Collins. "You have to go past vacant lots. You have to go past sex offenders. You have to walk past abandoned buildings and gangbangers that may be standing outside on the street. Our children are in danger."

Staging their own walk Tuesday afternoon was CPS. Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett walked with four students along a designated "Safe Passage" route at Fenger High School on the Far South Side. She hopes to illustrate that Safe Passage routes, already in place at 39 city schools, work and will work when instituted at CPS's 53 receiving schools next fall.

"Safety and security is first and foremost for me," Byrd-Bennett said. "That's primary for me even before we educate our young people. Young people can't go into our schools and not feel that I can leave, go home and be safe."

The way Safe Passage works: Guards patrol the streets around designated schools before and after class. Police coordinate with them and school principals on a daily basis.

But, some parents say, Safe Passage won't be enough to guarantee their children's safety at their new schools.

Every Fenger student ABC7 spoke with says Safe Passage works, but they pointed out the guards are only in areas immediately around the school, and once the guards are gone, trouble usually returns.