Chicago police and school officials are using federal stimulus funds to protect kids on their way to and from school through a program called Safe Passage, reports NPR. It was started after a brutal after-school street fight between teens from opposing neighborhoods was captured on cell phone video in late 2009. The video showed the beating death of honor student Derrion Albert, and it soon went viral. “We’ve established unprecedented relationships with the Chicago Public Schools,” says former Police Superintendent Jody Weis, who stepped down this month.
Chicago Public Schools are spending nearly $5 million this year on contracts with community groups and other nonprofits to provide people to stand guard along the routes students take to and from school in the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods. About an hour before dismissal time, a group from the organization Leave No Veteran Behind gathers in an unused classroom. Group leaders go over the locations the dozen or so teams of two will be dispatched to. They run down information they get from school staff or police about what they should watch out for — from certain gang tensions to suspicious vehicles — and they’re handed two-way radios to communicate trouble if they see it. Retired or out of work veterans, along with a few parents, are paid about $10 an hour to stand watch on corners and side streets, looking for signs of trouble for a few hours before and after school.