ProPublica reports: “As Rail Profits Soar, Blocked Crossings Force Kids to Crawl Under Trains to Get to School”

May 8, 2023

For ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom, Topher Sanders and Dan Schwartz (ProPublica), Joce Sterman (Gray Television/InvestigateTV), Scotty Smith (Gray Television/InvestigateTV) (video) and Jamie Kelter (ProPublica) (photography) recently reported:

“Jeremiah Johnson couldn’t convince his mother to let him wear a suit, so he insisted on wearing his striped tie and matching pocket square. It was picture day and the third grader wanted to get to school on time. But as he and his mom walked from their Hammond, Indiana, home on a cold, rainy fall morning, they confronted an obstacle they’d come to dread:

“A sprawling train, parked in their path.

“Lamira Samson, Jeremiah’s mother, faced a choice she said she has to make several times a week. They could walk around the train, perhaps a mile out of the way; she could keep her 8-year-old son home, as she sometimes does; or they could try to climb over the train, risking severe injury or death, to reach Hess Elementary School four blocks away.

“She listened for the hum of an engine. Hearing none, she hurried to help Jeremiah climb a ladder onto the flat platform of a train car. Once up herself, she helped him scramble down the other side.

“ProPublica and InvestigateTV witnessed dozens of students do the same in Hammond, climbing over, squeezing between and crawling under train cars with “Frozen” and “Space Jam” backpacks. An eighth grade girl waited 10 minutes before she made her move, nervously scrutinizing the gap between two cars. She’d seen plenty of trains start without warning. ‘I don’t want to get crushed,’ she said.”

Read the full report here.