San Francisco (March 21, 2023) – Today City and School District leaders announced a series of steps being taken to increase safety and support for youth after a series of incidents in San Francisco public schools and other places. The proposals will leverage and expand existing city and school programs and strengthen partnerships to ensure youth and families are getting the services necessary to address root causes of violence.
Last week, there were two serious incidents at San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) public schools, including a gun on campus at one middle school campus and a stabbing at another. Other incidents involving youth include a stabbing on a Muni bus, and multiple large fights at Stonestown Mall involving dozens of school-aged individuals.
“There are no excuses for violence, but there are steps we can take to prevent this kind of behavior from taking hold in our schools and our City,” said Mayor London Breed. “As City leaders, we are committed to working together with the School District to make sure our kids are safe and have the support they need, especially after the incredible strain on our young people caused by the last few years.”
“As SFUSD’s superintendent and a parent, I recognize how challenging the last few weeks have been,” said Superintendent Matt Wayne. “I am grateful that SFUSD and City leaders have come together with a sense of urgency to find solutions, and deepen our partnerships so that we can better support SFUSD students and families.”
“We have been in constant communication with SFPD and SFUSD in the wake of several incidents of student violence,” said Board President Aaron Peskin. “During the pandemic, we were able to quickly coordinate resources to support our students and their families and successfully stood up learning hubs. In the pandemic aftermath, we’re committed to stepping up our immediate investment in mental and behavioral health support in our schools, in addition to increased public safety presence on our buses and around school hot spots.”
“The violence we are seeing among young people is tragic and unacceptable,” said Supervisor Myrna Melgar. “Stonestown is an asset to our neighborhood – it is our town square on the West Side, and a popular hangout for our young people, including my children who frequent the mall often. The youth who are sparking this violence must see that there are consequences for their actions, and account for the harm they are causing to their victims, but also to the community and the mall workers. The majority of the youth at the scene are bystanders who have been recording this violence live and posting it on social media, eliciting likes, and more followers. We must instead provide these young people with healthy and safe activities after school. As the former ED of the Jamestown Community Center, I know how investments in these programs, violence prevention, and mental health services for our youth will pay off because they support their success.”
The City will focus on delivering, coordinating, and expanding certain programs, including:
- The Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families (DCYF) will expand their school violence interrupter program, which is a multidisciplinary team that works with SFUSD, juvenile probation, other systems partners, as well as community-based organizations to identify, track, and monitor high risk incidents and intervene with supports for students from schools across the City.
- The Street Violence Intervention Program (SVIP) will expand their current model to include school-based violence interrupters, which will work in partnership with DCYF’s Violence Interrupters.
- The Human Services Agency (HSA) will ensure that their social workers who have youth in SFUSD are engaged with the school district to better meet their clients’ needs.
- The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) remains committed to providing a presence as necessary, coordinating in close collaboration with SFUSD and all other City departments to keep kids, families, and school staff safe.
- The District Attorney’s Office will work with City partners to prevent and address crimes committed by juveniles. The office is committed to making significant investments for prevention and interventions to help the City's youth. The office will continue to invest in the Make-It-Right program, which ensures that eligible youth are able to repair harm, address root causes, and make amends. For youth ineligible for Make-It-Right, the office will work to ensure that there is appropriate accountability for their actions with the goal of rehabilitation, preventing future crime, and protecting public safety.
- The Public Defender’s Office will continue to strengthen their Youth Defender Unit, which fights on behalf of San Francisco’s youth and works to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by supporting legal, education, and collateral needs in the Juvenile Court while providing youth with intensive re-entry planning and case management services.
- The Juvenile Probation Department (JPD) will continue to coordinate with SFUSD to ensure that court-involved youth receive supervision and support from both the department and community-based partners, while also collaborating with SFDPH to expand therapeutic interventions for youth and their families.
- The Human Rights Commission will expand Dream Keeper Initiative (DKI) programming with a goal of preventing violence in San Francisco schools, and will provide peace education workshops for teachers and students, including the development of campus social justice ambassadors.
- The Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) will continue to hire additional Muni Transit Ambassadors, who are trained in de-escalation techniques, and ride specific Muni bus routes to assist customers, defuse and deter any conflicts, prevent acts of vandalism, and assist transit operators. Additionally, each Muni vehicle is equipped with cameras that are continually recording, which in many cases have helped apprehend instigators.
Simultaneously, SFUSD will continue working in partnership with City agencies to strengthen mental health support, expand communication and resource sharing, provide wraparound services, and coordinate specifically around school violence incidents that are of highest risk. SFUSD also has existing protocols and safeguards in place to address school-based incidents as part of the District’s emergency planning, preparedness, and prevention across all school sites.
“Our youth are still recovering from the devastating effect of the pandemic, and we know that it will take the entire City family, which includes leveraging the expertise of our community-based organizations, to help them build up their social-emotional resilience,” said Dr. Maria Su, Executive Director of the Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families. “DCYF is committed to supporting youth and families, especially for the upcoming Spring Break, as well as providing summer programming opportunities across the city.”
“The San Francisco Police Department is dedicated to working with the San Francisco Unified District, city agencies, and community partners to prevent and intervene in any form of school and community violence,” said Chief William Scott. “Specifically, the Department is committed to providing a presence as necessary and will coordinate to keep children, youth, families, and SFUSD employees safe.”