Chicago’s Back-to-School Season Comes with Gang Protections for Kid

Teachers are being laid off as the Chicago Public Schools district deals with a massive financial crisis.

But in one area the fourth-largest U.S. public school system is not cutting corners: the $17.8 million annual budget for safety patrols that watch over children walking to school through neighborhoods plagued by gang violence.

The school district has expanded the six-year-old Safe Passage program to seven additional schools this year, bringing it to a total of 140 of Chicago’s 660 public schools.

With 304 murders so far this year, up 18 percent from the same period last year, and 1,588 shooting incidents, up 17 percent, Chicago is one of the most dangerous big cities in the United States. Most of the homicides and shootings are blamed on rival gangs.

On the first day of school on Tuesday outside Sherwood Elementary School, in the Englewood neighborhood, 10 workers wearing reflective vests stood at nearby corners and escorted children.