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The Mechanics
« Whittier Field House (La Casita) Demolished Gun Violence Prevention Advocates Rally for Congressional Action »

Op-Ed Tue Aug 20 2013

The New "Safe" for the Chicago Public Schools

Demolition crews arrived at Whittier Elementary on Friday night to demolish the field house, also known as La Casita. The Chicago Public Schools made the decision to demolish the field house based on safety concerns. The CPS was so concerned about the safety of school children they skipped applying for a demolition permit and obtained an administrative order from the Department of Buildings, allowing for an emergency demolition.

Meanwhile, two shootings have occurred in the past month along "Safe Passage" routes. The most recent one occurred on Aug. 19 at Sheridan and Wilson, injuring five people. If these are supposed to ensure the safety of CPS students as they walk to welcoming schools on Aug. 26, how can people be confident students will be safe if shootings occur along the routes?

The particular route the Aug. 19 shooting occurred on is for Brennemann elementary as a welcoming school. [PDF] It seems odd that CPS decided to map a route that goes through the intersection of Sheridan and Wilson since a majority of people in Uptown probably wouldn't associate the word "safe" with that intersection. It seems apparent CPS officials didn't really think about the routes since shootings have occurred along the routes.

The biggest flaw of Safe Passage routes is the idea that having adults standing along a sidewalk will keep kids safe. Even with the presence of adults, it's likely that gang shootings will still occur. If these adults were Chicago police officers, it's possible the kids have a greater chance of staying safe. But based on the information the CPS is providing it is very easy for the public and especially parents to be skeptical of the program.

The word "safe" has just become a buzzword in today's society. Throughout the United States schools are bending over backwards to fret about bullying, which has been going on in this country for years. Public Service Announcements can be found on numerous TV stations about how to stop bullying. But when was the last time you saw a PSA on how to keep kids safe from gang violence and shootings on their way home from schools?

The CPS closes schools and creates a safe passage route. They unexpectedly decide to demolish the Whittier field house citing safety concerns. But rather than wanting to build a new field house, which would create a safe space to enrich the lives of the students and community around Whittier, the CPS wants to build more playground space and some basketball courts.

When it comes to safety, the CPS seems to be focusing more on simple ways to create safety. Creation of routes staffed by adults to keep kids safe. Tearing down a building that was a community asset rather than renovating the building. Let's label things "safe" and say we're concerned about safety rather than helping strengthen community ideas and initiatives of ways to really keep kids safe.

 
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Mechanics is the politics section of Gapers Block, reflecting the diversity of viewpoints and beliefs of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. More...
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Editor: Mike Ewing, mike@gapersblock.com
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