By: Paul Negron, Public Affairs Specialist
As the new school year progresses, education stakeholders across the District continue to devise ways to improve safety for students traveling to and from school. At last month’s public meeting, we heard from experts, education advocates, school counselors, and parents on some of the biggest challenges District students face in getting to and from school safely. Organizations are working diligently every day to promote safe passage and inform community members about what they can do to help this process.
Our first panel featured Chief Student Advocate Faith Gibson Hubbard and Dan Davis, Student Advocate. Ms. Gibson Hubbard and Mr. Davis defined safe passage as “a student’s journey to school, their movement within school, and how they navigate their way home from school.” The types of student safety issues that were reported include violence, bullying, criminalized conduct, and transportation. Community members who need assistance can access the Office of the Student Advocate’s Safe Passage Resource Toolkit online, which was designed to create and sustain the safe passage of our students and communities based on the “6 E’s” from National Safe Routes to School: education, encouragement, engineering, enforcement, evaluation, and equity.
The second expert panel included Inspector Michael Coligan, School Safety Division, MPD; Dr. Marco Clark, CEO, Richard Wright PCS; and Chalon Jones, Program Analyst, Deputy Mayor for Education (DME). Inspector Coligan shared information on how the Metropolitan Police Department deploys school resource officers on a daily basis to help students get to and from school. During dismissal, these student resource officers travel to specific safe passage routes where students congregate around bus stops and metro stations. Dr. Clark talked about how Richard Wright PCS utilizes community organizations to partner on safe passage and how his staff and volunteers collectively assist students at local bus stops and metro stations.
Ms. Jones shared information on the School Safety and Safe Passage Working Group, which is a collection of District agencies, police officers, and transit officials working together to collaborate with schools in high-priority areas. Working group members host safe passage events with government and community partners, as well as identify additional areas that need support based on crime data and stakeholder input. The DME’s office will next be collecting and analyzing responses of a District-wide Safe Passage Survey.
Our third panel featured school psychologist Chandrai Jackson-Saunders and parents Shacora Simmons and Vennetta Hamilton, all from Garfield Elementary School. Ms. Simmons testified in front of State Board members regarding ongoing challenges their students face and a request for additional traffic lights and improved communication regarding school safety resources.
All presentations can be viewed on our information-sharing site.