E-DEMOCRACY | Why do some Henry parents think school buses are safer?

From: Jay Clark Date: Feb 12 21:25

This is what some Henry Hmong families have told me why they think school buses are more safe than city buses:

They think school buses are safer because it is only students on the school buses, and you know who the students are. On city buses, it is everybody, and you have no idea who most of them are.

So for the girls who were groped: They have no idea the names of who did the groping, and the perpetrators will probably never be caught. On a school bus you know exactly who did the groping, and they are likely to get nailed the moment they set foot in the school.

Some families would make the same case for school bus stops. Usually, but not always, the school bus stops do not mingle with the city bus stops, and the people waiting at school bus stops are generally students and parents. At city bus stops, anybody can be there, and start swinging or robbing. Anybody who is not a student or parent and is lingering around school bus stops is likely to be noticed.

The mom of the student who got assaulted believes that the assault would not have happened had both he and his girlfriend got off at their own bus stops, because the attackers would not have been at the school bus stops, and the distance between their school bus stops and home were much shorter than the distance between the city bus stops and home.

And one more concern some parents made was how the school system was going to make sure that the students actually got to school with the bus pass. I talked with an Edison student who said that some of his fellow students are using the Go-To bus pass to skip school and head off to e.g. the mall during school hours.

Some parents would add the concern that non-students could be on the city bus watching and targeting students and then following them home. This may have happened in the assault.

I also think that the Hmong, being on average several inches smaller than everybody else, feel more vulnerable to problems on the bus.

And the practical problem for Minneapolis Public Schools is that they no longer have a monopoly, and charter schools will be going house to house offering school bus rides to Hmong families who transfer.

In the past week I have heard of five incidences of Henry students being assaulted, groped, or had a gun held to their head while using city buses going to and from school.

If the news of these attacks and the holdup and the groping spreads through the Hmong community, charter schools will be picking up new Hmong students.

Jay Clark

From: Mike Jones Date: Feb 12 21:52

People tend to feel safer around people they're familiar with. This is, however, a fantasy, as stranger crimes are fairly rare. Typically, the perpetrator knows the victim.

Also, in my experience, school bus drivers are typically much worse drivers than their Metrotransit counterparts.

Mike Jones
Uptown

From: Peggy Clark Date: Feb 12 23:00

Mr. Clark,

You have been a strong advocate for the Hmong community. You've organized students from Minneapolis to go to the legislature to preserve their Choice Is Yours busing to suburban schools in Hopkins and Wayzata, to name two. The busing program for Choice Is Yours was established to settle a lawsuit brought by the NAACP against Minneapolis Public Schools, and meant to encourage more access to high quality educational programs because Minneapolis was not providing an equitable education for protected class students. Hmong students have benefited from prior civil rights litigation.

Yellow buses for Minneapolis Public High Schools restricted access to before and after school activities for students who had only that method to travel to and from school. Only students who had access to public transit, parent or peer transport, or the walking proximity were able to participate fully in their high schools. This GOTO alternative transportation method opens up the world of possibilities for many more high school students, and especially low income students who can travel more often and more conveniently than being confined to yellow buses.

The Minneapolis School District worked extensively with Metro Transit for over a year on the GOTO pass strategy for high school students. They plotted every HS student's address and compared the yellow bus stop walk to the Metro stop walk, and found that students would be walking fewer blocks to Metro than yellow. Of course, some students are walking further, and some much less. If the net result was longer walk routes on the northside, then I would say it is a design flaw in the program, and seek out solutions for more convenient metro stops.

In addition, during the previous decade, all HS students living within 2 miles of school had to walk, except some portions of north Minneapolis that were a 1 mile zone. Today, students who live in the former walk zone that receive free or reduced lunch now receive GOTO passes. This means that more than a thousand kids who had to walk last year now not only have a ride to school, but also to their after school and extracurricular activities, their school performances and events, their jobs, their doctor appointments, their college classes or internships, their friends, and their entertainment choices until curfew time. Many students at South are eagerly awaiting their GOTO passes for next year. Students who were in summer school and in the 8th to 9th grade transition were already using GOTO passes over the summer, and didn't understand why they didn't have them this fall.

If you take a good look at the crime reports for the 4th precinct, you'll see many "crimes of opportunity" occurring to youth and adults around bus stops, both Metro and yellow bus. Young people need encouragement and support to be increasingly aware of their surroundings. They can be targets because of their affinity for iphones, ipods, laptops and other devices that can be turned in for easy cash. Young people should travel in pairs when they are in high crime areas, or avoid them entirely. Unfortunately, too many of our students live in neighborhoods that have crime issues. There have been problems on the southside, too, and more of our students will travel safely on Metro than walking through dicey neighborhoods going to and from school.

The elimination of the 8:30 bell time for HS transportation will allow MPS to provide improved start times for many elementary and middle schools, and they have spent 2 years planning for such a transition. It may even require another since we are already into to the school choice process, and I haven't heard about significant changes in start times. During the last semester, yellow buses continued at Henry in order for the students to try out the switch. I guess I wonder why students and families want their students choices limited to simply riding a yellow bus to school and then one back home. Those after school experiences are what often create vibrant friendships beyond the academic day, and there are opportunities to improve English language skills that reportedly are an attraction for suburban Choice Is Yours students.

As for the Edison GOTO skip problem, it is supposed to be addressed by Check and Connect personnel at each school building. When a student with a GOTO is absent for a number of days, their card is deactivated until they come and earn the privilege to have it turned back on. If staff isn't doing their job, then students are able to misuse their privileges. I can match you story for story about the shenanigans that go unpunished on yellow buses for high school as well. Middle school can be even worse, and parents can no longer ride the bus (everyone has to have a background check to ride the school bus).

Neither the yellow bus nor the Metro solution is perfect. Perhaps MPS can magically find a way in the $25mm shortfall to run yellow bus routes for Hmong students or others that have no desire for GOTO cards, but that seems impractical and inefficient. Perhaps families can ask for their GOTO card allowance and arrange their own carpools or van transport for their students so they don't have to walk too far.

No matter what all the issues are, I hope that you, Mr. Clark, and the Hmong students and families that are worried about their safety are talking frequently and honestly with their school staff and the district staff who oversee the GOTO program. That is where a solution can developed.

As a long time parent, I hope that the decisions about high school student busing provide the highest level of access to college and career options for all of the high school students that live within Minneapolis and attend our district high schools. Learning how to use mass transit safely in an urban environment is a worthwhile skill for our students to have as well. It's also a part of college and career readiness.

Thanks for the work you do with our immigrant communities!
Peggy Clark, Windom
South '14 parent, MPS '00 step-parent

From: Peter Tobias Date: 05:58

Peggy, thanks for your engaging and well informed posting. I especially share the sentiment of your last statement: "Learning how to use mass transit safely in an urban environment is a worthwhile skill for our students to have as well. It's also a part of college and career readiness."

See thread here.

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