District students are cutting classes at alarming rates, but a proposed plan by the Metro Transit Authority would monitor their whereabouts with an eye to cutting down on student-related crimes while they use the rail system.

This school year, police have picked up over 3,700 truant students and delivered them to school, according to Councilmember Sekou Biddle’s office. Meanwhile, recently released Metro data reveals that in 2010, there were 2,012 arrests, 507 of which involved youths. In total, the transit authority reported 2,279 crimes, up from 1,440 in 2006.

“We’ve seen statistics that there are increased increments of crime among school-age students during the day when they should be in school, so it would follow that those crimes being committed during school hours could possibly happen on the Metro as well,” D.C. Councilmember Sekou Biddle told the AFRO in a recent interview.

According to the Washington Post, Metro and city officials are considering strapping restrictions on students riding on its train and bus routes. Under the proposed guidelines, students would be issued passes with a chip that contains identification information. They currently use passes without IDs at a reduced fare.

The AFRO reached out to Metro for comment, but did not receive a response by press time.

But, a spokesman for the District Department of Transportation told the Post that if implemented, the program could restrict Metro usage past 8 p.m. and on weekends—though teens would still be allowed to travel at a regular priced fare. A preliminary testing of the program is set to be launched at the District’s School Without Walls.

Locals seem to be welcoming of the proposal if it means better security for the system.

Iyyetta Hawkins, a District resident and mother of a 14-year-old daughter, said she flat out refuses to ride some of Metro’s bus lines because she feels her safety would be in jeopardy.

“I’m afraid to ride the X2 buses and I don’t let my daughter ride them either,” Hawkins told the AFRO. “I’ve witnessed a couple occasions where students break into fights on the back of the bus because there is no security, police presence or cameras. It’s just a ‘no-no’ for me.”

The rail lines have also had their considerable shares of student-related crimes, as some incidents have made their way into national headlines.

Last August, more than 70 teens were involved in a massive brawl on Metro’s Green Line at both the Gallery Place-Chinatown and the L’Enfant Plaza stations. After the scuffle, four teens were injured and three were arrested. And there have been more recent incidents of theft and violence.

Since the incident, officials have taken steps to enforce the city’s curfew and Metro has beefed up security in and around stations.

According to the Post, officials are set to review the ridership changes over the summer.

“Riding the Metro is just like riding a car…it’s not a right,” Kenneth Barnes, CEO and founder of the local nonprofit Reaching Out to Others Together (ROOT) told the AFRO.

“It’s a privilege to be able to drive a car and there are certain restrictions that you have to abide by in order to drive that car. I think the same thing in this particular instance. You cannot ignore the fact that we have some extremely violent children. Now, that’s a small minority, but the violent children should be monitored because they become predator and prey.”

Gregory Dale

AFRO News Editor