DFER DC Testimony on Safe Passage Policies
September 22, 2021
Democrats for Education Reform DC
Good evening Executive Director John-Paul Hayworth and Representatives of the State Board:
My name is Nikki D’Angelo and I am a Ward 5 resident, DCPS parent, former DC charter school teacher and former DCPS central office employee. I am testifying on behalf of Democrats for Education Reform DC (DFER DC) and I am pleased to offer testimony in support of safe passage. It is my hope that this testimony will provide a critical perspective for keeping our students safe.
Now that students are back to school, the issue of safe passage has to be prioritized. As described in the Office of the Student’s Advocate’s survey and report on student safe passage, too many students do not feel safe. I believe that DC must ensure that all students, teachers, and community members are heard so that safe passage policies are specific to each school and community yet nimble enough to reflect our changing needs. This will require true flexibility, autonomy, and equity in budgeting and fidelity and accountability in practice.
Shuttles and safe routes
I know there’s been a lot of work around safe passage being done by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education (DME) and simply, there’s more that needs to be done. That is why I am supportive of increased shuttles and safe routes. The last thing students need to worry about is getting safely to school. I’ve had my own experience with this issue. One day I was walking from the Benning metro to the school I taught at, DC Prep Benning Elementary School, when a car pulled up alongside me just as I crossed Benning Rd. He rolled down his window, leaned over from the driver’s side and told me to get in. When I refused, he lunged to grab me and pull me inside the car. I was able to get away and run to my school, but despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to teach for the day – leaving my new second grade class with a last minute substitute. If this can happen to me in broad daylight, it can happen to anyone.
I also know there have been numerous altercations and harassment near Deanwood metro station. From my experience teaching at IDEA public charter school a couple of years ago, many of my students successfully used the safe passage shuttles already in place to the Deanwood metro, yet still frequently reported feeling unsafe walking from the Deanwood metro to the school campus.
Additionally, there’s a lot of speeding in ward five, especially on major roads like South Dakota Road, Rhode Island Avenue, and Bladensburg Road, which bleed into the surrounding residential areas. This concerns me because a lot of students in my neighborhood walk to Langdon Elementary school or Burroughs Elementary school where my son attends. My sincerest gratitude goes to Representative Zachary Parker for his outspokenness and work on this issue in ward five, especially considering the 5-year-old who was tragically killed by a vehicle in my neighborhood two weeks ago.
To reiterate, despite the work that’s been done, too many students still struggle with arriving safely to and from school. Each ward has differing problems and thus, must have tailored solutions. It is imperative that policymakers center the voices and experiences of community members in order to achieve the best results for our communities.
It is my hope that as the school year continues and new information unfolds, the DC State Board of Education will continue to focus its efforts on how to ensure our students are safe coming to and from home and school.
Thank you for allowing me to testify.
 February-April 2020. Office of the Student Advocate. “Safe Passage: A Student’s Perspective.” Source: https://sboe.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/sboe/Safe%20Passage%20Report%20SY%202019-20%20Final.pdf
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