Only On 7: SF kids describe obstacles in Tenderloin


Armed with federal indictments, the task force targeted chronic drug dealers whose turfs were near schools in the Tenderloin -- a neighborhood where many low income families call home.

The U.S. attorney obtained the indictments under the Safe Schools law which forbids drug dealing within 1,000 feet of schools. In the Tenderloin, there are several schools. They serve many of the 4,000 kids who live in the community of just one square mile.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag told us, "Too many of them are walking through open crack, heroin and methamphetamine dealing, just as they're just trying to get to school."

"You have people doing transactions on the streets or even injecting needles into their arms in front of the kids," said City Academy principal Marie-France Ladine.

City Academy is an elementary school in the heart of the Tenderloin. There are 120 students there. Since the school has no outdoor recreation area, they walk four blocks every day to a public playground. They navigate their way past the open air drug market. Notice how some of the children have their forefingers pressed to their lips. That's how teachers remind their kids of the dangers on the streets.

"Not only do they need to not talk to anyone on the streets, but they need to not talk to each other because they need to know what's going on in their surroundings," said Ladine.

De Marillac Academy is just a couple of blocks away from City Academy. The kids there are also exposed to the same rampant drug dealing.

"I'm aware of it and I sometimes feel in danger because you don't know what people are capable of doing to you," said Litzy Cruz, an 8th grader.

"The neighborhood may not be the best, but I guess this is home to me," said Matthew Mendez, an 8th grader.

"Some of the obstacles that our students encounter on the streets of the Tenderloin, it is like a war zone," said de Marillac Academy president Michael Daniels.

Daniels says child psychologists volunteer their time there, counseling students who have trouble coping.

"It causes many of our students to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder," said Daniels.

We asked the principal of City Academy if she noticed any difference out on the streets since the sweep. She told me one of her teachers who lives in the neighborhood said the streets seemed much quieter. Task force officers say they want to keep it that way by conducting "Operation Safe School" on a continuing basis.

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