“Our young people deserve to feel safe before, during, and after school, and the Safe Passage program is an important part of our commitment to youth safety,” D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said in a statement.
D.C. students have been killed on their commutes in recent years. The latest incident happened in August, when 15-year-old Kemon Payne was fatally stabbed outside of a Northeast Washington charter school. Payne’s 16-year-old classmate was charged with the killing.
Officials have rolled out a series of initiatives to prevent such violent incidents.
The Safe Passage initiative started in 2017, when the city started hiring more trusted community members to supervise students on their commutes and defuse conflicts. Charter schools also have launched shuttle routes to take students to Metro stations in high-crime areas. And earlier this year, the city launched 24 short shuttle routes near traditional public and charter schools in Wards 7 and 8, which have the highest rates of violent crime.
The District has identified seven priority areas for additional support covering the Anacostia Metro station, Minnesota Avenue Metro station, L’Enfant Plaza, Waterfront Metro station, NoMa-Gallaudet Metro station, Good Hope Road SE Corridor and Columbia Heights Metro station areas.
Victor Battle, a volunteer with Safe Passage who has primarily worked around the Congress Heights neighborhood, said that the program identifies the hot spots where a lot of children congregate, and then the volunteers “motivate the kids to go home safely.”
Through the expanded program, the adults will be lined along streets — creating a pathway within the community directly into schools. Some also will work in schools to teach conflict resolution skills and try to help reduce violence.
“What’s most important about this work is that it’s embedded in our communities,” Deputy Mayor of Education Paul Kihn said during a news conference Friday. “These are caring and trusted adults that students know and interact with and will respond to.”
The program will launch across the District on a rolling basis.