Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Help Me Howard: Walk to School
Walking two miles in the hot Florida sun is no fun for any of us. Incredibly dangerous for a 5-year-old, but that's what children are being forced to do in South Florida, which brings up the question: Is it legal? It's why one parent called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- The birth of a child is a miracle.
The fact that Isaiah is still alive is also one.
Mac Jones, Upset by Bus Decision: "When he was born, he was born with cancer in the liver. He had to have heart and lung bypass surgery. I mean, just the fact that he is still here is a miracle."
Today, the surgeries have allowed Isaiah to live a normal, happy life.
But his safety has left his parent unhappy.
Mac Jones: "I just can't believe they can do that to kids."
Each day, Isaiah and his 9-year-old sister Aja ride a bus two miles to elementary school. But, according to Mac, not for long.
Mac Jones: "Come October 7, neither one of my kids is going to have transportation."
Instead, the two kids will have to walk to Banyan Elementary, across busy streets, a four-lane highway, by themselves.
Mac Jones: "Too much room for things to go wrong. Too much room. What about the days of thunderstorms? Kids can get disoriented, get lost. Anything can happen, not to mention the crazies out there."
We measured from Banyan Elementary down Pine Island, across two intersections to University Drive, 1.9 miles to the entrance of their apartment complex and 2.1 miles to their apartment. A long way for an adult, much less a 5-year-old child.
Mac Jones: "How can you expect a 5-year-old and a 9-year-old, not to mention the other 5- and 6-year-olds in this same complex, to walk that long every day? That's dangerous."
Mac says, a school district official told him if he didn't want his kids to walk, he would just have to make accommodations, which brings up the obvious question.
Patrick Fraser: "Why don't you pick them up?"
Mac Jones: "I work."
Patrick Fraser: "Why doesn't your wife pick them up?"
Mac Jones: "She works."
Patrick Fraser: "If you were unemployed..."
Mac Jones: "Yeah, then I'd be homeless."
Mac wants to keep his job and keep his kids safe. For him, the solution is simple.
Mac Jones: "And I can't believe the school board is doing this. Just doesn't make sense. Think about what they are doing. Think, don't just look at numbers, budget and numbers. You are talking about kids' lives. Kids."
Well Howard, can the school district tell a parent, if you live less than two miles from a school, your child has to walk, even if they are 5 years old?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "This just puts kids in danger situations. They can get abducted by a child molester, get lost, get stuck in the rain and heat. And the Florida Legislature and State Education Department have decided it's legal. School boards can grant an exception and let little kids ride the bus, but they don't have to."
When i spoke to the Broward School District, it was good news-bad news-good news for the Jones'. A spokesperson told me there was a misunderstanding. Because Isaiah meets special criteria, he can continue to ride the school bus.
The bad news: Aja cannot ride with him.
But maybe good news: Under the empty seat policy, if there is room, she can qualify to ride in the empty seat with her brother.
Mac Jones: "That just takes a lot of stress off me and my wife."
Mac is thankful Isaiah won't have to walk two miles to school, and Mac says their bus has empty seats, so he is hopeful Aja can ride with him, so both children will be safe from all the things that could go wrong for children walking so far.
Mac Jones: "Help Me Howard works. That's all I can say. It works."
Patrick Fraser: "Not only does Broward require children living under two miles to school walk, so does Dade, often through busy, dangerous intersections. But if the walk is hazardous, the principal can give your child an exception and let them ride the bus. It's worth a try, and it may save your child from getting hurt."
Picked up a problem you want to drop off somewhere? Take a short walk over to us. We won't have to go miles and miles to school them on the law.