Over the weekend, a baseball game between two of Chicago’s best public high schools was canceled because parents with kids at a school on the North Side refused to allow their children to play about 15 miles away at a South Side school.
The game was to be part of a two-stop, day-night doubleheader on Saturday for Walter Payton College Prep High School. The first game — in the afternoon — was at Von Steuben High School, which, like Payton, is located on the city’s North Side.
The second game between Payton and the South Side’s Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Payton’s team never made it, though, because, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, a contingent of parents was worried their kids could get shot.
“About three, four parents [came] up to me saying they’re not letting their kids go down there,” Payton head coach William Wittleder told the Sun-Times.
“This is probably one of the most embarrassing moments I’ve had,” Wittleder added. “It’s very heartbreaking. This is totally against what I believe in.”
Other parents soon joined the protest and Wittleder eventually realized he wouldn’t have enough players to field a team.
Bryan Street, the head baseball coach at Brooks, told basically the same story to Fox Chicago.
“He said that one parent got all the other parents together collectively and said it would be hazardous to the kids’ health because they might have a drive-by in the neighborhood,” Street said.
“The parents were in fear of their kids’ lives due to we being in the heart of the ghetto,” added another Brooks coach, Herbert Redmond, according to Fox Chicago. “I’m really appalled because this is the nicest facility maybe in the city. We never have any issues up here and we want our boys to play baseball.”
Brooks won the game in the record books after it was declared a forfeit.
Wittleder told the Sun-Times that he has apologized to Street.
According to local TV station WGN, the principals at both schools have since issued a joint statement saying: “This has been a very unfortunate misunderstanding between our school communities. We spoke today about the situation leading up to the forfeit of Saturday’s game and feel it is time to move past this and allow our student athletes to focus on their futures. We look forward to both of our schools meeting on the field again soon.”
Payton College Prep is a fancy, gleaming, state-of-the-art school in Old Town, one of Chicago’s wealthiest neighborhoods. In 2012, Payton ranked third on Chicago magazine’s list of the city’s best public high schools. About one-third of the students come from low-income families.
Brooks College Prep is a relatively dilapidated school in Roseland, an economically depressed neighborhood plagued by gang violence. In 2012, Brooks ranked fifth on Chicago magazine’s list of the city’s best public high schools. Just over 85 percent of the students come from low-income families.