Students concerned with safety on Muni

Harassment and violence on Muni is a serious problem, according to a majority of San Francisco public high school students surveyed.

Safety on Muni was deemed a “very serious problem” by 28 percent of students and “somewhat serious” by another 30 percent, according to the survey, conducted by San Francisco-based David Binder Research.

The survey of 8,144 students was conducted in February and students were polled on a variety of factors, from school food to security guards.

The district’s Safe School Task Force, made up of representatives from schools, Muni and the Police Department, are constantly working on ways to make public transit safer for students, said Trish Bascom, associate superintendent for student-support services at the San Francisco Unified School District.

“There’s been intimidation, harassment, verbal abuse and some fighting,” Bascom said. “Muni has procedures — they stop the bus and call the police. Often the perpetrators escape, but we have cameras, and in many cases we’ve been able to identify them.”

Muni workers ride buses along with students to minimize conflicts, and they work with school-based police to focus on recurring issues, according to Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman Judson True.

“We work closely with the school district and police to provide a safe environment for all of our customers,” True said.

Additionally, 61 percent of the students surveyed listed a lack of job prospects as a serious problem, more serious than fights at school, lack of after-school activities and trouble connecting with their peers.

“I want a job where I can make money for college — but I can’t get a job unless it’s at my school, because I’m only 15½,” said Mission High School sophomore Nicole Brooks, who said her peers who can legally work at 16 also struggle to find jobs.

California teens had an 18.4 percent unemployment rate in February — triple the adult average of 5.5 percent, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A number of factors — including lack of education and job skills, as well as the fact that their hours are limited during the school year — put teens at a disadvantage for jobs, according to Ruth Kavanagh, a labor marker consultant for the Economic Development Department.

On a more positive note, 74 percent of students said their school is headed in the right direction.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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