'Troubling time': Hazel Crest leaders address safety after gunman opens fire on group of students

Police and community leaders are increasing their focus on school safety after a rise in gun violence and crime around a grade school in the south suburban Hazel Crest.

On Jan. 11, a group of students was walking home from a basketball game at Jesse White Elementary School around 6:20 p.m. when a white car suddenly slowed down next to them and someone inside opened fire, according to a statement from school officials.

The car of a school administrator who was driving next to the students at the time of the shooting was damaged, but nobody was injured during the incident along 170th Street, school officials said.

The next day, school officials say a teacher's car was stolen from Jesse White Learning Academy during a volleyball game.

On Tuesday, Mayor Vernard Alsberry Jr. and school leaders joined police in addressing the issue.

"We're gonna all work together to ensure that our students are, number one, getting a proper education and that our students. Communication, we're going to put every resource possible to help our students," said Kenneth Spells, Superintendent of Hazel Crest School District 152 1/2.


Officials say Tuesday's meeting was the first of many to address the uptick in violent crime.

"This is a troubling time for our students. They should be concerned about Algebra, English, or U.S. History. But they are now worried about just making it home safely," said Dean Barnett, President of the Hazel Crest School District 152 1/2.

"We have an obligation to their safety. I am grateful that all of our stakeholders have enhanced their efforts to guarantee travel to school safely. But moreover, return home safely as well," he added.