- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2007

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty yesterday announced that he will increase police visibility in and around city schools to help students travel safely both before and after classes.

“There’s nothing more important to any of us than the kids,” acting Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier told students at Anacostia Senior High School in Southeast during a press conference yesterday. “It’s our job to make sure you can get to and from school without being harassed, without being assaulted, without being afraid.”

The expanded patrols are part of the Fenty administration’s two-pronged Safe Schools initiative — a collaboration between city agencies and community-based groups designed in part to “make the entire area around our schools much safer,” the mayor said.

Part of the program, called the Safe Routes Project, will require police to place school-resource officers on foot patrols before and after classes within a four-block radius of specific schools and on routes used heavily by students. Patrol officers also will provide increased visibility on the routes.

School security officials will provide Metro with maps highlighting the routes that most students travel, and Metro will provide corresponding bus routes, officials said.

The Department of Transportation also will ensure that the students’ routes have proper lighting and signs, and the Office of the Attorney General will assign prosecutors to handle cases resulting from incidents near the schools.

“We’re making sure education is a public-safety priority,” Attorney General Linda Singer said.

Anacostia Principal Ronald L. Duplessis Sr. said students often get into verbal confrontations on the way home from school, which lead to more serious incidents.

“It’s mainly just the verbal conflict,” Mr. Duplessis said. “It’s verbal altercations that lead and escalate to violence.”

The safe routes project initially will be tailored to six schools: Anacostia, Cardozo Senior High School in Northwest, H.D. Woodson Senior High School in Northeast, Roosevelt Senior High School in Northwest, Spingarn Senior High School in Northeast and Johnson Junior High School in Southeast.

The safety initiative includes a program to create violence-free zones at Johnson and Anacostia.

That program will be headed by the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, the East Capitol Center for Change and Peacoholics, which will place youth advisers in the two schools to work with students to resolve conflicts.

The program is modeled after other violence-free zones created in the District and other cities that have produced success.

For example, officials said a similar program instituted at a middle school in Atlanta resulted in a 24 percent decrease in suspensions and an 88 percent decrease in bus misconduct between the 2004-05 school year and the 2005-06 school year.

“We’re going to wrap our arms around these young people,” said D.C. Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat. “We’re going to say: ‘Let’s talk it out’ instead of ‘Let’s fight it out.’ ”

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