Every weekday morning, parents and volunteers, wearing bright yellow shirts and neon jerseys, join with police to accompany up to two dozen students from ABLA Homes, a Chicago public housing project, to a school two miles away. In the afternoon, they make the return trip, including the ride on the city bus, says the Christian Science Monitor. In March, a shooting near the school left a student dead and others fearing retaliation. “You got to do what you can to stop the violence,” says Deverra Beverly, president of ABLA’s advisory council who helped set up the escort, dubbed Operation Safe Passage.
A spate of violence has engulfed schoolchildren and galvanized the city. Since the start of the school year, 24 public school students in Chicago have been killed – a classroom’s worth of kids, as local editorials have noted; 21 of them were shooting victims. While the numbers don’t represent a big rise from the past few years, the violence is worse than a decade ago and grabbed the city’s attention. Rallies have been held downtown, ministers have taken up the cause, and Mayor Richard Daley has pushed gun-control legislation, summer jobs, and new research on preventing youth violence. “We have to start talking about this as a crisis or people will shrug it off and take it as an accepted part of growing up in certain neighborhoods,” says Michael Vaughn, public schools spokesman.