Huffpost Chicago

CPS 'Safe Passage' Defended By Rahm Emanuel, District Despite Uptown Shooting

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In this April 3, 2013 photo, students walk home from William Penn Elementary School in Chicago along 16th Street at the end of the school day. Some fear Chicago Public Schools' safe passage program is not ready for the first day of school on Aug. 26.
In this April 3, 2013 photo, students walk home from William Penn Elementary School in Chicago along 16th Street at the end of the school day. Some fear Chicago Public Schools' safe passage program is not ready for the first day of school on Aug. 26.

On the heels of another shooting on a Chicago Public Schools-designated "Safe Passage" route in Chicago, the district and Mayor Rahm Emanuel alike on Tuesday addressed concerns for students' safety over the new school year, which begins next week.

Speaking at a press event at Jones College Prep, Emanuel acknowledged the shooting that wounded five men in broad daylight in the city's Uptown neighborhood on Monday was "an early warning sign for us to be more on our toes," according to DNAinfo Chicago.

The mayor also noted the goal for the city remains that "every street is a safe-passage street."

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, speaking at the same event, added the district's Safe Passage program is "just not the geographic passage where children walk. It's a comprehensive strategy involving multiple resources of the sister agencies," NBC Chicago reports.

The district also pointed out the shooting did not happen during school hours.

Still, CPS critics are not convinced the program -- expanded this year to help students at 50 closed schools districtwide safely travel through gang territories from their closed school to their "welcoming" school -- is ready to go for the first day of school on Aug. 26. Nearly 13,000 children are being shifted to new schools in the 2013-2014 school year in Chicago.

Community activist Jitu Brown of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization criticized the safe passage program as "equivalent to putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound," according to Fox Chicago.

"It's a disaster waiting to happen, and parents should be upset. We should not accept it," Brown continued.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Chicago Teachers Union posted a YouTube video that reportedly featured an audio clip of CPS administrative officer Tim Cawley speaking at an Aug. 1 budget meeting at Truman College, located just blocks west of where the Monday shooting took place.

"You probably don't have to worry about Safe Passage up in these neighborhoods. You do on the South or West Side," Cawley can be heard saying in the clip, followed by vocal jeering from meeting attendees.

"How dare you," one attendee can be heard shouting.

"You're full of it," another attendee yelled. "You don't know what's going on in these communities."

Meanwhile, as of late Tuesday afternoon three persons of interest are reportedly in custody but have yet to be charged in Monday's shooting at the intersection of Wilson and Sheridan, according to DNAinfo. Police say some of the shooting victims have gang affiliations.

Ald. James Cappleman (44th), whose ward the shooting took place in, said squad cars will be positioned around the clock at three crime "hot spots" in the Uptown neighborhood going forward, according to NBC.

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