Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Carmel on the Case: School Bus
Authorities in Jacksonville still don't know who kidnapped and killed 7-year-old Somer Thompson. She was grabbed while walking home from school here in South Florida. Some parents are afraid one of their children could be next. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
WSVN -- When the final bell rings some students get picked up by parents, others jump on a school bus. The rest either ride their bikes or walk home, but parents in one South Florida apartment complex say for their children walking isn't safe.
Amy Kingston: "I've been at the site for the registered sex offenders. There's 13 people that live in this complex alone."
We found a total of 71 sexual offenders and predators within five miles of the Edgewater apartment complex in Coral Springs. Their crimes range from rape to kidnapping to sexual battery.
Amber Gibbs: "Somebody could kidnap me or just take me to their house and do bad things to me."
The children here have to walk 1.7 miles to Coral Park Elementary School. Their parents have asked for a bus stop, but the school has said no.
Stacy Gibbs: "Every year they tell us that since it's under two miles you have to get here either by walking, by bicycle or drive."
In both Broward and Miami-Dade Counties school rules state buses can not stop within a two mile radius of the school, but that doesn't make sense to parents who see nearly empty buses driving by every morning.
Amy Kingston: "From what I hear there's a bus driving around now that goes by both the complex and the school that's less than half filled, so I don't understand why there isn't a bus."
Carmel Cafiero: "But there is an option. We discovered what's called the empty seat exemption to the rule, and the parents we talked with say no one ever told them about it."
Stacy Gibbs: "There is no information put out once so ever from that school for any bus information."
Here's how it works: A parent fills out an empty seat application. The school principal determines if there is room for an extra student on an existing bus route, if there is the students can ride that bus.
Amy Kingston: "I would have liked it if the school would have told me about this option."
The school board will not create a new bus stop, but for youngsters living in the two mile limit there may be a bus stop closer than the school itself and these kids would love not having to worry about walking all the way to school.
Chris Brown: "I think walking to school is real dangerous because you know somebody could take me or something."
And that is something no one ever wants to see.
IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE:
More: Empty Seat Application