Expanding the Mission of “Safe Routes to School” as Kids Return to Class

It’s hard to believe summer is almost over. In many places, the weather was so mild it seems like it never quite started. But kids are already going back to school.

Crosswalks and adult supervision are two ingredients in keeping kids safe from both traffic and violence. ##https://www.dot.ny.gov/safe-routes-to-school##NY DOT##
Crosswalks and adult supervision are two ingredients in keeping kids safe from both traffic and violence. NY DOT

While the weather has been cool, temperatures have reached a boiling point on many of our nation’s streets. In many communities, violence is very much on people’s minds as kids return to school, following incidents like the rash of shootings in Chicago over the July 4th weekend and the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Last week, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership teamed up with Generation Progress, The League of Young Voters Education Fund, the Million Hoodies Movement, and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans to hold a Twitter town hall with the hashtag #Back2SaferSchools. Generation Progress kicked things off with this sobering thought:

Q1: In 2015, gun violence will be leading cause of death for Millennials. What can communities do to ensure students go #Back2SaferSchools?

— Generation Progress (@genprogress) August 20, 2014

There are many ways to address this problem. But as Keith Benjamin of the SRTS National Partnership says, “Place-making plays a pivotal role in combating violence.”

Late last year, the Partnership released “Using Safe Routes to School to Combat the Threat of Violence” [PDF]. It weaves together in-school conflict resolution programs and anti-bullying work with the group’s regular program of walking school buses and infrastructure improvements.

“In some communities, the danger of violence and crime discourages children from walking to school and keeps people off the street, limiting physical activity and restricting errands and trips,” the report begins.

With 850,000 children living in “hot zones” for gang violence and 5 percent of high school students reporting that they missed at least one day of school a month because of fear of violence at school or on their way there, it’s clear that, in Benjamin’s words, “you can’t have safe routes if your communities aren’t safe.”

Benjamin notes the case of 17-year-old Marcel Pearson, killed July 4 in Chicago, two days before he was to start freshman orientation at Western Illinois University. He was walking in the park with friends, just blocks from home, when he was shot. Benjamin sees the stories of victims like Pearson, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown as examples of young people being unsafe in their own places, unsafe doing the simple act of walking.

The Partnership sees many possibilities to combine efforts to curtail violence and improve pedestrian safety. Pursuing these overlapping goals in tandem can lower the temperature and keep kids safe on their way to a new school year.

“Safe Routes to School is about finding out where safety challenges are and where the opportunities are to get more kids walking to school,” said Margo Pedroso of the Partnership. “Is traffic the problem, or is it violence and threats? It depends on the community.”

She notes that the Partnership has branched out “to be more than just focused on trips to and from school,” and is focusing more broadly on getting kids outside and active. For example, the Partnership advocates for shared use resources, like school playgrounds, being open on weekends and after school. “But if you don’t address violence issues, no one is going to go to those places,” Pedroso said. “Parents are going to keep kids safe in their houses and apartments.”

  • Kevin Love

    ” In 2015, gun violence will be leading cause of death for Millennials.”

    Source? When did gun violence take over from traffic violence as the leading cause of death?

  • I recall looking into this and discovering that gun homicides plus gun suicides was a distressingly large number, larger than traffic deaths.

  • Harald

    Traffic violence is not that big a factor for younger age groups. You can find the numbers here:http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/leadingcauses.html

  • gneiss

    Not true. From the CDC again, the leading cause of death for people in the United States ages 5-34 is from car accidents: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/overview/data.html. While 18,226 people in that age group died in motor vehicle crashes, less than half that, 8,500 died from Homicide.

  • DD

    Typical of this blog to use bogus stats.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    Presumably gun violence includes a majority of homicide and also a majority of suicide. It’s hard to tell though whether the numbers do work out to put gun violence over traffic violence even if you combine these sources. (They seem to be broken out differently for different age groups in that particular link.)

  • Harald

    For 2011 (latest numbers available) you have 13705 deaths for motor vehicle collisions and 20638 for homicide and suicide combined. Of course the CDC isn’t really allowed to do research on gun deaths specifically, so it’s hard to say how many of the suicides and homicides would count as “gun violence.” Anyways, both the numbers of deaths from traffic and other violence are shockingly high, and it’s great that Safe Routes is going to tackle them both, especially as there seem to be some links between the two.

  • lop

    Unintentional injury includes “MV traffic. For example 874 unintentional injury deaths among 10-14 year olds in 2011. 437 were from MV traffic

    http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/pdf/leading_causes_of_injury_deaths_highlighting_unintentional_injury_2011-a.pdf

    In the 15-24 year old range 6926 deaths from unintentional MV traffic. 3825 homicide firearm. 2168 suicide firearm. 5993 from guns total.

  • lop

    18266 number is for those aged 5-34. 8500 is for those 8500 is only for those aged 15-24.

  • lop

    What do you mean they can’t do research?

    http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/pdf/leading_causes_of_injury_deaths_highlighting_unintentional_injury_2011-a.pdf

    By age group. Includes homicide firearm and suicide firearm numbers. Some age groups homicide firearm+suicide is higher than unintentional MV traffic, some the reverse.

  • Kevin Love

    I wonder how the CDC developed the mental telepathy capabilities to describe the deaths as “unintentional”?

    Do they also give stock market tips?

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