More than a dozen schoolchildren in Philadelphia have been murdered since classes started , putting this academic year on pace to be one of the district’s deadliest in a decade, the Associated Press reports.
All but one happened far from school property, but they have sparked action among teachers and administrators sick of burying their students.
Victims include an 8-year-old struck by a bullet as he rode in a car, a 13-year-old who was raped and stabbed in an abandoned row house, and two teenage girls – a standout student at the city’s performing arts school and a budding equestrian – found massacred with their families.
Since September, the district has stepped up its year-old policy of offering reward money – usually $5,000 or $6,000 – for tips leading to an arrest in a student’s murder.
There has been a surge of recruits to the district’s “safe corridors” program, in which volunteers equipped with radios keep watch over the main streets used by children as they walk to and from school.
More than 1,000 children, teachers and parents are expected to march on April 4, Palm Sunday, through a neighborhood where 10-year-old Faheem Thomas-Childs was fatally wounded last month when a gunfight erupted outside his school.
“We want to knock the complacency out of the community,” said the district’s chief executive, Paul Vallas. “When it happens again and again, the community can become callous to violence. We can’t have people becoming callous.”
Leading the marchers will be Faheem’s mother, Patricia Arnold, and Dawn Sweeney, the mother of a 16-year-old boy who was bludgeoned to death by a group of teen acquaintances last June.