The District would shuttle students from Metro stations to certain schools in neighborhoods beset with high crime rates under legislation introduced Tuesday.
The D.C. Council measure comes amid increased citywide efforts to ensure students have a safe passage to and from school each day.
On Sunday, The Washington Post published a report detailing the fears and dangers students face during their daily commutes. Teenagers have been killed during their afternoon trips in random incidents or schoolyard fights that escalate.
The legislation would also establish an Office of Safe Passage to lead efforts to get students to and from school safely.
The measure does not say which schools would need shuttle service, but noted that it would apply to campuses where students have few public transportation options. A cost for the program has not been established.
“We’ve had multiple children die due to gun violence this year on their way to and from school,” said Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), who chairs the education committee and introduced the legislation. “This is not normal, and it’s not okay. And for far too long, adults have turned a blind eye to this. How do we expect our students to learn when they can’t rely on us to keep them safe to and from school?”
Many students do not attend schools in their neighborhoods, and often have long commutes to schools.
The District provides transportation on school buses to only about 3,000 students who have special education needs. Most of the city’s 95,000 other public school students walk, get a ride or rely on public transportation for their commutes.
In 2009, the D.C. Council passed emergency legislation that allowed the police chief to declare any area within 1,000 feet of a public school a “school safe passage emergency zone” for up to five days. People congregating in the zones could be arrested. An area would receive the designation if it endured a disproportionately high number of violent crime incidents.
More recently, the city has put additional “violence interrupters” on the streets. They are often city employees trying to diffuse tense situations by patrolling the neighborhoods where they grew up, and have a job title growing in popularity in cities attempting to stop shootings before they happen.
When introducing the legislation, Grosso cited research from Guns & America — a national reporting project focusing on gun violence — that identified 286 shootings in the District between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the 2016-2017 academic year. Of those, 177 happened within a 1,000-foot radius of a school campus.
Two months ago, two men were shot less than 400 feet from Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Columbia Heights while children were on the playground in an aftercare program.
Last month, bullets twice pierced windows at Hendley Elementary in Southeast Washington. During one of those episodes, children sat near a window that was hit by a bullet.
So far, at least six of the 13 council members have signaled support for the safe-passage bill.