Mom Outraged District Expects her 11 y.o. to Take Local Bus or Walk 1/2 Mile to School

Readers ehsatfbyey
– I try to feel for the parents so steeped in the acid of fear that they cannot think straight. So I am trying to feel sympathy for this mom. KING5 News reports:

A Seattle mom has never been more terrified to send her 11-year-old child to school on a bus.

Karenza Ferris thought her daughter, Zya, would ride a yellow bus during her first year as a middle school student at Jane Addams.

Zya assumed the same.

“A yellow bus would come, they would pick me up, and they would drop me off at school,” Zya said.

Except, just a couple weeks before the start of the school year, Karenza received a letter from the school district. After students finish elementary school, the district contracts with the public Metro bus for transportation.

“The first thing that came out of my mouth was, ‘What?'” Zya remembered. “You never know who rides it.”

What bothers her mother the most, however, is the 12 sex offenders who live within a mile of the stop.

“It’s terrifying,” Zya said.

Zya would have to walk alone, more than a half-mile to school.

As bad as I feel for this mom I feel worse for Seattle. Now that the news media has treated this mom’s paranoia as a legitimate concern, other parents could well pile on — especially as the school has relented and is allowing the middle school girl to ride the transportation previously reserved for younger kids.

Give parents something new to worry about, they will. –  L

Save my child from acting her age!

Save my child from acting her age!

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83 Responses to Mom Outraged District Expects her 11 y.o. to Take Local Bus or Walk 1/2 Mile to School

  1. tz September 1, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    This might be OT, but I was driving over the holiday and noticed a Mother and her son – I guess about 10 years old – had stopped at the Rest area where I stopped. The son went into the “Mens” room, while the mother into the Women’s room. I wonder at a Father/daughter couple. Or what would happen if they stayed. Our society has gone mad.

  2. hineata September 1, 2014 at 11:59 pm #

    In fairness, wasn’t Seattle home to BTK and the Green River killer? Maybe they’re just more nuts up there, with all those trees. I know my brother enjoys seeing the deer appear behind his condo, and there was a bear recently – a big yawn for Americans, I’m sure, but kind of thrilling for Kiwis.

    Is this girl likely to fall victim to two serial killers who are either in jail or dead, I forget which, or is she going to be eaten by a bear or licked to death by Bambi? Maybe you should be a little more sympathetic, Lenore :-).

  3. hineata September 2, 2014 at 12:05 am #

    And public buses – oh, the horror! My own girls have been subject to a drunk guy who berated everyone – once. Other than that they’ve had to put up with old dears and bus drivers who stop and wait for them if they’re running up the street. How dreadful….

  4. Emily Morris September 2, 2014 at 12:22 am #

    A half-mile? I don’t know her neighborhood but… can’t she be walking at this point?

  5. Emily Morris September 2, 2014 at 12:23 am #

    And… how much is this costing the school district to have the “special bus”?

  6. Ann in L.A. September 2, 2014 at 12:56 am #

    Do you ever get the feeling that the free-range battle is being lost?

  7. SOA September 2, 2014 at 1:00 am #

    I think this all depends. On the neighborhood for one thing. In some neighborhoods it might not actually be safe for an 11 year old to walk alone. In the ghetto for example it is not even safe for adults to walk alone sometimes. So is it a nice neighborhood?

    Is the road conducive to walking? Are their crosswalks and sidewalks? Sure an 11 year old knows to watch out for cars but nobody likes walking along the side of the road an inch or two from cars speeding by. I have done it and I prefer a nice sidewalk for obvious reasons. Heck even as an adult there are some roads I won’t walk on or roads I won’t cross because there are no sidewalks and they are just too busy. I am an avid walker too. But not all roads are walker friendly, just the facts of life. So is the route walker friendly?

    Also I hope they have alternate methods for special ed kids. Not all special ed kids need the special ed bus. Some are fine riding the regular bus but may not be fine walking by themselves. There are kids that are gray area where they are pretty mainstreamed but still can’t do everything typical kids can do.

  8. Emily September 2, 2014 at 1:00 am #

    1. “Twelve sex offenders within one mile of their home.” Does that mean twelve people who’ve legitimately committed sexual assault, or twelve people who’ve sunbathed naked, sexted, or had consensual sex at eighteen with sixteen-year-olds? Because, it seems as if the threshold for the sex offender registry is getting lower and lower, and it’s defeating its own purpose.

    2. Zya riding a “bus reserved for younger students,” and having that fact broadcast on the news, isn’t going to do anything for her social standing in grade six. Girls (and boys) that age can be straight-up cruel, without any good reason. If you’re too fat, or too thin, or too smart, or not smart enough, or you wear the wrong brand name, they’ll make fun of you. This “special bus” thing could make poor Zya an outcast for the whole school year (and beyond), before she even arrives on the first day.

    3. How much of Zya’s “terror” is her own, and how much did her mother put in her head? I certainly didn’t follow the “sex offender registry” when I was eleven. I went to school, played Pogs and four-square, snuck illicit glances at Seventeen and YM magazine (remember YM?), and rode around on my bike on the weekends, when I was allowed. Mostly, I just wanted to be normal, and “sex offenders are lurking everywhere” was (in my mind) just a flimsy parental excuse to keep me in the house.

  9. Wendy W September 2, 2014 at 1:12 am #

    “Zya would have to walk ALONE, more than a half-mile to school.” Really? There’s not any other students to meet up and walk with? Highly unlikely, considering the school is smack in the middle of a huge residential area.

    On the other hand, there is a 4-6 lane highway a quarter mile from the school that she might have to cross. I would not be thrilled with an 11yo crossing that daily, but she doesn’t complain about that, just about the sex offenders, so I doubt that’s her route.

  10. Wendy W September 2, 2014 at 1:21 am #

    Re: walk-ability of the neighborhood, I dropped the little Google Maps man in random spots in the surrounding neighborhood. The streets are narrow with no sidewalks and it’s all older, well-kept homes. Could go either way re: safety, depending on the people who live there and if there are a lot of careless drivers.

  11. Warren September 2, 2014 at 1:30 am #

    That is total crap that the school caved in. The mother should have been told, that is the way it is.

  12. Susan September 2, 2014 at 1:31 am #

    In 2012 I lived kitty corner from Jane Adams Middle School in Seattle. I’ve ridden the public bus route that goes by the school several times with a 2-year-old. It’s a perfectly nice neighborhood. The bus up there is just fine. This mom is overreacting, big time.

  13. SKL September 2, 2014 at 1:41 am #

    My kids’ school offers city bus passes for middle school students who live in the neighboring big city. I was glad to see that.

    I must be missing something – why does the bus even come up if the walk to school is only a half mile? Is this a special needs student or something?

  14. Stephanie September 2, 2014 at 1:51 am #

    Lenore! I love your site and almost everything on it, so I am surprised to see this on here. First, it’s at least 1.5 miles, if she’s being offered a metro bus option. But second- and much, much more importantly- it’s not a safe neighborhood. There’s a large, very sleazy highway corridor the kids are walking along, with strip clubs, prostitutes, and gun stores along the walk route or bus stops.

    My child will be attending this same school in a year, and she will be biking the 3 miles to get there, rain or shine. But the school district does need to bus kids past this heavily crime ridden area instead of having them walk through it every day. I don’t know exactly where this mom lives, but I have been following the efforts of parents up there (it’s north of the school) to get bus service, and I support them.

    Susan, the city cut bus routes in 2013, which I believe is part of the problem here.

  15. Peter Brülls September 2, 2014 at 2:49 am #

    Okay, I admit that the archaic systems of measurements the US uses sometimes confuse me, but ist 1/2 mile about 800 meters and thus a 10 minute walk?

    Or did miles get bigger the last time I was in the US?

  16. serena September 2, 2014 at 6:17 am #

    How long has she lived in the area? Because it seems a little strange that she didn’t know this was going to happen

  17. Jill September 2, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    Having personally ridden a yellow bus during my school years, and having endured having gum stuck in my hair, and my books thrown out the window, and other such unpleasantness at the hands of my schoolmates, I would have much preferred riding a city bus with adults.
    Even assuming Zya happened to board a city bus with a sex offender on it, what does she think will happen? Does she think he’ll force her off the bus and carry her off to his lair? That’s ridiculous, but once again, the “anything can happen” mentality has taken hold.
    My husband used to take the PATH train from Jersey City to Manhattan when he was nine, and then take the subway to his school in Greenwich Village, accompanied by his younger brother. The crime rate was much higher then than it is now. The worse thing that happened to them was that some guys hanging out in front of gay bars on Christopher Street would occasionally whistle at them.
    I suppose Zya’s mom would consider that a horrible outrage, but neither my husband or his brother were bothered by it.
    Of course, now there’s probably a law against grown men whistling at boys, and they’d be labelled sex offenders.

  18. Nate September 2, 2014 at 8:19 am #

    I read this slightly differently. My interpretation was that she’d take the public bus and would STILL have to walk 1/2 mile to school from the nearest bus stop. So slightly inconvenient, yes.

    But terrifying? Wow.

    I was surprised that Seattle has middle schoolers take public transportation. But I think there are a lot of magnet schools there, so this may be the best option.

  19. Lark September 2, 2014 at 9:32 am #

    I think this all depends. On the neighborhood for one thing. In some neighborhoods it might not actually be safe for an 11 year old to walk alone. In the ghetto for example it is not even safe for adults to walk alone sometimes. So is it a nice neighborhood?

    I just want to push back on this a little bit, because I live “in the ghetto”…I mean, I live in a low-income part of town that is majority people of color. I also spend regular time in a nearby neighborhood which is popularly considered “worse” than my own.

    Now, I can’t speak about every urban low-income area, but I notice that a lot of folks who just pass through and get their information from the papers imagine that poor neighborhoods experience non-stop gunfire and that there are dangerous people out there being dangerous every minute of every day. In reality, my neighborhood is almost always just like any other except there are more people on the streets (it’s densely populated and frankly, a lot of people’s apartments are pretty depressing so it’s more fun to spend time outside) and everything is run down.

    Something that might surprise you – the parks are full every day when school is out. Kids are out biking and playing and running around and yelling (which I sometimes regret, since the fourplex next to me has about six little kids who all race around like it’s going out of style). This is also a neighborhood where little kids routinely go to the store – on a hot day, the bodegas are full of kids picking out popsicles.

    Because this is a poor neighborhood and because this is where the richer parts of the city drive to buy their drugs and sex (ask me about being propositioned by rich men in cars back when I was younger!), there are some unsavory things that go on here. And, just as in many richer places, it can be unsafe to walk alone late at night – although far more because you’re likely to get mugged than anything else; it’s not like sex offenders are lurking in the alley hoping that someone will decide to walk through.

    At the same time, precisely because there are so many kids and adults out on the street, I feel like this is actually a very safe neighborhood for kids – probably safer than neighborhoods where any kid who’s out on the street is likely to be alone with no adults nearby. If the city hadn’t disinvested from this neighborhood to the point where everyone has to bus because there aren’t nearby schools, I would unhesitatingly let a kid walk to school once she was old enough to cross the street safely, not get lost or distracted, etc.

    The biggest dangers to kids in this neighborhood are pollution (we have an asphalt company half a mile away and the soil is full of arsenic leftover from fifty years ago), housing instability leading to falling behind in school and loss of relationships, slumlord housing (roaches, leaks, mould, poorly maintained and dangerous wiring and gas) and food instability due to poverty. So yes, it’s a dangerous neighborhood to be a kid, but not why you’d think.

  20. Ann September 2, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    When I was in middle school, my district didn’t have any buses. Almost everyone was carpooled. My mother refused to drive me, so I had the options of riding my bike or riding the city bus… both of which I perceived would make me a social outcast!! I ended up riding the city bus, and I never even contemplated “who might be on it”… I only worried about whether or not my friends my see me waiting at the corner for it! It is sad when we wish kids could get back to “the good old days of peer pressure and popularity”!!! 🙂

  21. Tiny Tim September 2, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    Sure it’s possible that this walk is unsafe – tho because of pedestrian unfriendly infrastructure, not stranger danger – but 1/2 mile is no more than an 11 minute walk. I just do not understand how people think that is a big deal. Of course the public bus is fine, too.

  22. Ben September 2, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    Someone wondered how many of the 12 sex offenders were true offenders, but lets just assume they all are for a moment. Why does mom not stop to think how many of them have molested middle school aged children?

    Someone who has sexually assaulted their ex wife due to a bad relationship or some sicko who has assaulted elderly ladies are both dispicible people, but they are not going to pose a hazard to your child. Sex offender is not the same as child molester even for people who are on the registry for the right reasons.

    And chances are the one or two people who pose a real risk won’t do anything for fear of returning to prison.

    By the way, if there are no safe biking or walking routes to school, someone wasn’t thinking when the place for the school was chosen. What about people who can not afford a car? What if someone’s car breaks down? You need viable alternatives.

  23. Heather September 2, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    I agree with Lark. The safest play area in our neighbourhood is the extremely busy one right in the middle of the estate. The older kids really watch out for younger ones. I’ve seen kids help someone who fell to get home with a twisted ankle, I’ve seen them in full teen girl flight after one of the girls was mean to another (the mom who came by got the whole thing from at least 4 girls at once). When we became regulars, they checked with my 3 year old when they saw him with someone other than the parent they’d already seen him with (and not in a way to scare him, which was handy as it was first his dad and then his childminder). Also, they share the toys they bring, with strangers. Scooters, balls, anything not being used can be borrowed for a bit.

    Meanwhile, the nicer playgrounds have better facilities, but it’s much harder to feel like it’s your place and the mums would descend on you like furies if you borrowed a scooter for a race.


  24. SKL September 2, 2014 at 11:36 am #

    Well, if folks who live there are confirming that that is really an unsafe place for an 11yo to walk alone, then whoever wrote the news story did a lousy job. Because none of that comes across. Maybe the target audience was only those who live right there and would know how it was. So for example, there are some areas in my city of birth where all you have to say is a street name and everyone’s eyes get big. So if my mom would say “she has to get off the bus at __ and ___” everyone local would be like “oh hell no.”

  25. Jill September 2, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    @stephanie, my understanding is that strip clubs and prostitutes don’t swing into action until kids are in school for the day. Even if they’re open for business when the kids are walking home, what will the children see that would be so terrible? A bar, looking pretty much like any bar from the exterior, and a couple of women hanging around, waving at cars.
    A bar! Friendly ladies! The horror!
    I’m not sure why a gun store was lumped in there, but again, what’s so awful about a kid walking past one of those? Bullets don’t come blazing forth out of gun shop doorways, so is it the idea of guns that is bad for children? I’m sure kids know guns exist, and can be purchased in stores.

  26. Papilio September 2, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    …So, did I mention my 12yo family member cycling 11 miles to school…?

    “not all roads are walker friendly, just the facts of life”
    Nope – that’s a man-made situation.

  27. mandy September 2, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    We don’t have ‘yellow’ buses in England. When I started the equivalent of middle school, I had to catch one public transport bus into the city and another bus out of the city to get to school. Each bus ride was about 30 minutes and I’m here to tell the tale.

    If the mother is that worried get her a bike and ride that to school. I’m so over this general over-reaction to kids being on their own.

  28. Reziac September 2, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    More people are killed by deer than by bears. But as to the notion that we need sidewalks and crosswalks and all that — um, no. If there are no sidewalks, one learns to walk safely beside the road. If there are no crosswalks, one learns to observe traffic before crossing the street. When you have to look out for your own safety, you learn how to do so and are better off for it.

    And the related question here is — how has this woman raised a kid who is incompetent to walk a mere half mile??

  29. Jill September 2, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    Deer are dangerous. I know of a woman who was killed by a deer jumping through the windshield of her car, and of a man who was severely injured while riding his bicycle when a deer ran into him.
    Here in central New Jersey, cars are always getting hit by deer (It’s not the other way around, oh, no. The deer deliberately run into the path of cars. They’re that stupid.)
    The average female whitetail deer weigh about 130 pounds, so they can do a lot of damage.
    And yet, mothers aren’t clamoring for more protection for their children from deer, which are lousy with the kind of ticks that carry lyme disease. Lyme disease is serious business. It poses a lot more harm than the guy down the street who did something once that got him labelled as a sex offender.

  30. Maggie in VA September 2, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    My late mother-in-law told me that she was riding the city buses to school in NYC at age 6. The yellow buses are an incredible expense to the school system and contributor to traffic congestion. No way could we do without them in our metropolitan area, because our public transportation is so half-hearted and scattershot. But if an area has the public transportation resources in place, it would be better for everyone. My parents would have had some choice words for me if I had balked at walking a 1/2 mi. to school.

  31. Buffy September 2, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    “There’s a large, very sleazy highway corridor the kids are walking along, with strip clubs, prostitutes, and gun stores along the walk route or bus stops.”

    “….all older, well-kept homes.”

    Well, which is it?

    If it’s the first, I’d still like to know how many kids have been molested/propositioned/spoken to/threatened with guns etc walking along this sleazy corridor. Seems to me that employees and customers of these types of businesses would want very little to do with children. You also said “the kids are walking along”, which says to me that kids DO walk to school in this area, possibly together…so is this a class issue? This child is just too precious to join the other kids, and thus requires special accomodation?

    And how many neighborhood kids have had a problem with the “sex offenders” (and how is living near them, which this family must, different than walking by them? They’re still there.)

  32. Havva September 2, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    My first experiences with using pubic buses was in Seattle when I was 15.

    I grew up with the notion that buses were filled with undesirables. I was given a similarly warped impression of the NY subway. So my first public bus ride (late at night in an unfamiliar city, at the start of my first trip without my parents) was terrifying. But I’m glad I took the bus.

    I took the bus every day for 2.5 weeks. And I haven’t been afraid of a bus or subway since.

    This girl needs freed from those fears too. It was a great idea to have the students use public transit. A city near me does it for all school kids. And I have to say I have seen how bullying issues are defused by being mixed in with the adults. They have an escape and protection I never had as a kid. It’s the school bus (not the city bus) that make me nervous.

  33. Red September 2, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

    Kids riding public transportation aren’t all that unusual in large cities with good public transportation. I lived in Chicago and didn’t have to ride the CTA until high school–but that was because I lived within walking distance of my schools until high school. And really, high school was “in walking distance” (it was 3.5 miles door-to-door) and I often walked home rather than wasting my money on the bus fare.

    Middle school is 6th grade. I knew a lot of kids who were on public transportation to get to school by 6th grade or earlier. It’s not uncommon in Chicago. I’m not even sure Chicago Public Schools has yellow buses … after a brief google search, it appears they have yellow buses for special needs/special circumstances only and kids without those who require transportation are given CTA reduced fare cards.

  34. Donna September 2, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Quote from mother in the article – “A small child by themselves is a target,” she said.

    I think that statement bothers me the most. Considering an 11 year old in middle school a “small child.” I don’t even consider my almost 9 year old 3rd grader a “small child” any more. A small child is preschooler or maybe kindergarten. After that, you are just a child.

    My guess is that there is some classism going on here. The school is in a less desirable Seattle neighborhood and mom doesn’t want her daughter exposed to that neighborhood.

  35. Glen September 2, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    Maybe I’ve missed it, but does anyone else blame lawyers?

    The schools cave because they think, “Well, what if we make her walk and she is hit by a bus or kidnapped…we’re screwed.” Schools worry about being sued.

    The other thing we might be missing is the mother’s history. Did something bad happen to her when she was a kid to make her so afraid?

  36. Jenn September 2, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    All sorts of arguing about whether it’s safe or not for Zya to walk a half mile in that neighborhood, and no one has commended the Seattle school district for thinking it’s ok for middle schoolers to ride public transit? I think it’s great that it’s seen as an accepted mode of transport for kids in general, though poor Zya and her mother don’t agree.

  37. JJ September 2, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    SOA:I think this all depends. On the neighborhood for one thing. In some neighborhoods it might not actually be safe for an 11 year old to walk alone. In the ghetto for example it is not even safe for adults to walk alone sometimes. So is it a nice neighborhood?

    I am not sure if you are kidding/being sarcastic with this response. You must know (or maybe you don’t) that your inclusion of the word “ghetto” is clueless at best. But surely the fact that the mother’s greatest fear is registered sex offenders shows that we are not talking about a dangerous neighborhood. Were my 11 year old daughter to walk the last 1/2 mile to her school my biggest fear (pretty realistic) would be that she’d be robbed. In other neighborhoods a realistic fear would be that she’d be shot in a cross fire. People in neighborhoods with lots of crime don’t have the luxery of imagined risks.

  38. John September 2, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    @Stephanie….Believe it or not, in Pattaya, Thailand there is a red light district, with both gay and straight bars, located a few blocks from an elementary school and a few of the kids who attend that school walk right thru that district, with backpacks in tow, on their way home. Nobody bothers them.

  39. Kate September 2, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    I had a conversation with a neighbor at the bus stop this morning that felt like banging my head against a wall. My younger son is still outside the walking limit for school, but my older son has aged out (there are three walking lines, one for K-3, one for 4-8, and one for highschool). This means that my first grader still takes the school bus, but my fourth grader will be biking the kilometer (about 0.6miles) to school.

    Anyway, my neighbor was horrified to find out that her daughter will be expected to walk to school in a few years. She is convinced that her blond-haired blue-eyed daughter is in all kinds of dangers from roving “perverts” who are “everywhere.” Because “it’s not like it was when we grew up!”

    I told her that statistically her daughter is safer now than we were as kids, but she’s convinced the world is getting more dangerous. To make it worse, the local school district sends home notices whenever the local police department receives a complaint related to the schools. Over the last two years, we’ve had a handful of notices related to “unmarked vans” of various colors that lingered suspiciously near school kids or whose drivers tried to talk to kids before driving off. So she’s convinced our kids are in danger, especially cute little girls.

  40. SOA September 2, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    JJ: I don’t know anything about where she lives. I was commenting that yes, some neighborhoods are NOT safe to walk in alone. Like areas with a lot of gang activity, or drive bys, or robberies, or rapes or car jackings or running loose vicious dogs. Those type of neighborhoods exist because I have walked through them before and yeah it was scary. I used to pick up a friend in a neighborhood like that.

  41. SOA September 2, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    My husband and I used to walk everywhere before we had kids. We happened to live just right to where we were close to everything and could cut through parking lots and neighborhoods to find safe walking routes to get there. There were still not really sidewalks but we avoided the busy roads with no shoulders.

    Still I would not attempt to walk across the highway in front of our house. We stayed on the side of the street our house was on. It was an 8 lane highway plus turn lane and happened to be in a super congested area. They had to put up red light cameras at the red light because people frequently ran that red light all the time.

    Sorry, we are adults and we were too scared to attempt to cross right there. We had to go out of our way and walk further up the road to where it got a bit less congested to cross.

    It is ignorant to act like everywhere is safe for walking. Its not. Point blank. Even at the less congested crossing part we still almost got hit by cars crossing multiple times. We would go when we had the walk sign at the crosswalk and people wanting to make a left turn would just turn right into where we were crossing instead of waiting for us to walk past first.

    If they did not notice two full grown adults, they would definitely not notice a child.

    Now in other cities like Atlanta, I see all the great sidewalks and walking paths and biking paths and public transit. But not every where is like that. Our downtown area is great for walking but our suburbs are not really cut out for it. Many roads have zero shoulder or sidewalk so you are pretty much walking in the road and hoping some jackass is not trying to text and drive and won’t veer into you.

  42. Donna September 2, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    I find the discussion here of the safety of the neighborhood bizarre. The mother didn’t complain about the neighborhood. She didn’t express a fear over street safety or gang activity or prostitutes or crime. She is afraid of 12 sex offenders and people who ride buses. Why are some trying to rationalize her craziness with fears that even she doesn’t express?

  43. KAP September 2, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    My 7 year old will be walking just over a half mile to school this year. Oh, the horror! We live to close for a bus (yeah!), and although he wants me too walk with him for now (1st day), as soon as he feels comfortable going by himself, he can (although the school does want someone there after school to meet him).

    I grew up in Seattle before the bussing to Middle school ended, and I would have loved taking Metro instead. kids were mean and loud,and the drivers were crazy.

  44. Bob Cavanaugh September 2, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

    At first glance, this looks like it outrages me. However, looking a little more closely, it’s not exactly how Lenore makes it sound. It doesn’t sound like the school caved necisarily, but according to the article all students have the option. I’m not sure where this particular school is (I’m in a different district) but if it’s where the comments are indicating, that area is a sort of bad area. If the bus route she has to take is the one I’m thinking of, my mom told me that one day when I got sick at school and she had to take it home, she overheard a part of a conversation between two guys comparing their recent stays in the King County jail. That route has a reputation locally as being the worst in the system.

  45. Warren September 2, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    I really get a kick out of all you that go on about safe places to walk.

    Everything from country roads, to dowtown city streets, myself and my kids have walked. Just because it is busy, or no sidewalks or whatever does not mean it is not safe. Walking is only dangerous if you do not take responsibility for your own actions. Unless of course there are hoards of armoured vehicles jumping the curb and targeting pedestrians.

    If it is busy, you adjust for it. If you have to walk a little further for a good place to cross, suck it up, and do it. Walking is only as dangerous as you let it be.

  46. resident iconoclast September 2, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    I lived in Seattle for decades, so I earned the right to the following opinion.

    Stay away from Seattle women with children. You can’t tell whether you’re looking at a nut job like the one with the middle school student or not. When they call the cops, they will assume you’re a perv out to lure children, even if you’re just walking down the street. If you’re in a retail location, make sure there are cameras recording you, if you’re within 15 feet of those women and their children.

    Wenatchee wasn’t located in Washington by accident. Seattle is worse.

  47. Stacy September 2, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    “It is ignorant to act like everywhere is safe for walking. Its not. Point blank. Even at the less congested crossing part we still almost got hit by cars crossing multiple times. We would go when we had the walk sign at the crosswalk and people wanting to make a left turn would just turn right into where we were crossing instead of waiting for us to walk past first.”

    We’ve had a car run a red light in front of us when we were about to cross a small road while walking a paved trail. Fortunately, we waited to see if the car would stop when the walk sign went on. A police officer pulled the driver over for running the light. But that alone doesn’t mean the trail isn’t a safe way to cross the city. Just teach the kids to always look for themselves and don’t trust a car to stop. There are roads that I would not trust my first grader to cross safely, but by age eleven my kids could handle them all fine.

  48. Ariel September 2, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

    Funny. I read teacher Tom’s blog (preschool teacher in Seattle) and he often mentions the field trips they take by riding the bus or train. There was also one where riding the bus and train WAS the field trip!

    Side note: we (mom and I) constantly rode the bus when I was growing up; I knew practically all the stops for our main bus and all the stops, in order, for the train, one end to the other. We were friendly with the bus drivers. And yet I have yet to ride by myself. (Too dangerous/you never know who’s riding/etc)

  49. Nicole 2 September 2, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    @Lark that is what I wanted to write last night, but couldn’t. I live in a “sketchy neighborhood”- essentially a working class area that has experienced an influx of latino and black residents. It really isn’t bad, there are times when things are questionable, and there are questionable characters, but there are also tons of kids out playing and a ton of great people.

    I’ve also lived in areas that were flat out called ‘the ghetto’ and they’ve never lived up to their reputation. I took the public bus, which allegedly has the bottom of the barrel as most everyone drives cars, and generally everyone was pleasant. Heck, I lived on the *south side of Chicago- I mean, Chiraq*, which apparently means I should be dead, and the worst thing that happened was one of my roommates was mugged. I saw lots of young kids successfully taking public transportation, usually in small groups, and they didn’t seem at all distressed.

    So I have a very hard time believing this kid is going to be dodging Johns and gunfire on the way to school, or that the 12 sex offenders are all going to be predators out to find an 11 year old girl walking to school.

  50. Donna September 2, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    Unless you’ve traveled on every road in the world, you can’t state that there are no roads that are unsafe to maneuver as a pedestrian. I can think of several in my city that I don’t want to walk and would not allow my child to do so.

    But I still can’t figure out why anyone here is debating this point. The mother and child with all the complaints here don’t complain about the safety of the roads. They are complaining about sex offenders and the objectionable people who ride buses. I’m sure if they had perfectly valid complaints as to the safety of the roads, they would have brought them up.

  51. Greg September 2, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    I live 2 miles from Jane Addams.

    Seattle Schools policy being what it is, this girl cannot live half a mile from the school, or she would not get any bus transportation. Most likely is that she gets bus transportation, but routes being what they are, she has to walk half a mile or so from the closest stop to school.

    It seems this girl would have to take 1 of 2 bus routes (one that runs along Lake City Way, or one that runs along NE 125th St.). The only other buses that come close come too close (a bus that runs down 35th Ave NE, 1 block from the school). Depending on where their home is, any of these routes are plausible and transferring to the bus that runs closer probably doesn’t make much sense (more time spent waiting to transfer than it would take to walk half a mile).

    So, she either was to walk from 125th down to 113th (where the school is), or from Lake City Way over to 34th (where the schools is). Both routes have sidewalks, and both are roughly half a mile. Neither of the bus stop locations has a strip club (there is a strip club at Lake City/113th, but no bus stop there; the stops are a long block away, and, incidentally, strip clubs in Washington State are rather generic-looking from the outside; no windows allowed [and no alcohol inside, either, btw]).

    I’m imagining the real objection the mother has is where her daughter has to catch the bus. Of course, I have no way of knowing where that is, other than probably along Lake City Way some distance to the north or south (which could be sleazy, but is more likely just a bleak street with lots of cars rushing by, which is how Lake City is almost everywhere) or Sand Point Way or 125th NE, neither of which have anything resembling a bad area (again, except for car traffic).

    Other notes: Jane Addams is a K-8, which is why there is yellow bus service going to the school at all (the K-5 kids get yellow bus if they live sufficiently far away or have to cross an arterial). Also, Seattle Schools moved around the middle school boundaries earlier this year, which means up until around March it wasn’t clear where the current Jane Addams middle schoolers would be attending middle school; some Advanced Placement (i.e., gifted) kids got moved from the middle school they were attending last year to Jane Addams, although obviously this girl who is just starting middle school was not one of them.

  52. Jill September 2, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

    @Kate: Unmarked vans have no business existing. Any decent van has lettering on it that advertises some kind of business. It’s disgusting to see unmarked vans prowling the highways and byways, and sometimes parked near schools. There should be a law against unmarked vans. You just know that whoever’s driving them is up to no good.

  53. Donna September 2, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    “I’m imagining the real objection the mother has is where her daughter has to catch the bus.”

    But this is where the child LIVES.

    First, if these 12 sex offenders live within a mile of the bus stop and that bus stop is where she is catching the bus inward to school, then they also live a short distance from her own house. Why is this just now a problem?

    Second, there is only so much that a school can do about where people live. The school district is not required to provide door-to-door service so that children don’t have to walk short distances through their own neighborhoods.

  54. Wendy W September 2, 2014 at 6:14 pm #

    This puts things in a little different perspective.

  55. lollipoplover September 2, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    My 11 year-old biked 1.5 miles to school today (she’s done the route for 5 years now)and at school she was chosen as a leader for the the 3rd grade hallway (she even had to sign a contract accepting the responsibility). She has to take all of the bikers and walkers with her at dismissal. She’s confident and proud to take on this role. She also would gladly ride any bus. Who cares if it’s public?

    Just because mom has irrational fears of pedos on public transit doesn’t make her commute unsafe. If you are terrified to send your child to school on a perfectly safe bus you need professional help. And 11 year-olds are not small children. Mine is 5’4 and 100 lbs.

    When independence becomes a dirty word in parenting, we are doomed. I second this article (and love the Free Range references):–and-why-other-parents-should-too/2014/08/25/f28d7dac-2c6b-11e4-9b98-848790384093_story.html

  56. Mary September 2, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    Yeah no. I’m from Seattle. I’ve lived all over the Puget sound region and worked a delivery job that put me in every neighborhood at one time or another. There isn’t a neighborhood in the city I’d be afraid to send a middle schooler to a bus stop in. Some of the neighborhoods here in Las Vegas where poor kids walk alone to/from school or bus stops would send the fragile Seattle hover parents Into a stroke.

    They started the public transit deal when I was in high school in the 90’s. It was a pilot program at our school. I loved it and my friends at other schools were jealous because they gave you a bus pass good for six months 2x a year, which meant free recreational bus use year round. I went to a school out of my zone so the ride was 45+ minutes both ways! and I even *gasp* had to transfer! I could have ended up anywhere! *eyeroll*.

    This is actually the first complaint I’ve heard about it, but I don’t really search for them.

  57. Mary September 2, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

    Oh for crying out loud. Lake City? That is the sleazy dangerous neighborhood? Dear Seattle, get out of your crazy bubble. When the median home price is greater than 400k you can not clutch your pearls and cry about the ghetto. Lake City is a poster child for gentrification. You should have seen the hovel I rented for $300 a month there in 2001…and the million dollar condos that are there now in its place! When we used to walk the streets at 1am to go to Dicks Drive In in high school it actually was a little sketchy- but now? Give me a break. This is why I will never move back to Seattle. Too many people afraid of their own shadow that will accuse you of child abuse for not hovering like they do.

  58. SOA September 2, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    Jill: are you for real? So a private citizen cannot buy a van without putting some kind of marking on it?

    I know a family with 7 kids and they have one of those giant vans and they don’t have markings on it. Why should they? It is their car they use to transport the ginourmous family unit. But yeah, they are totally being pedophiles…..

    Pedophiles can just as easily stuff a kid in the trunk of a honda.

  59. Peter September 2, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    I just moved to King County, and I love the metro system here. It is way better than most parts of the country. Although it’s lacking in subways and rails, county buses are frequent and there are a variety of routes.

    I didn’t realize that kids rode these buses to school, but it makes complete sense. A student can get an Orca card which makes it very easy to pay for the bus. And while initially they may only be riding it for school, the world of public transportation in general will be open to them and that might also mean a greener generation.

    I’d seen 8th and 9th graders riding the bus a few times around here (never once were they murdered while riding), and I thought maybe more parents around here just had a free-range attitude than they did in Louisiana (where I lived up until a few months ago). But now that I see this story, I feel like I must give some credit to the schools who encourage the kids and parents to do this.

    P.S. There are multiple cameras and audio recorders on all those buses. It’s not some kind of lawless environment. And on the few occasions that I’ve talked to a bus driver, they were always nice and helpful. If anything a general bus driver should be LESS concerning to parents because they aren’t specifically trying to be a bus driver for kids.

  60. Uly September 2, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

    Of course she’s not for real, SOA, don’t you recognize sarcasm when you see it?

  61. Peter September 2, 2014 at 11:15 pm #

    I just read through the other comments here.

    Emily, your Point 2 is a very good one. If she’s really the only one with special accommodations as a result of her mother’s insistence, there is a high chance that people will make fun of her for it. Also, regarding Point 3, I agree that her mother has made her far too afraid of the world. However, I do think kids of that age should be made aware that sex offenders exist as a reason not to go off with people.

    Jill, I agree with your sentiment that you would’ve preferred a public bus to a school bus. Although I typically stayed invisible enough that I was only rarely bullied, I still would’ve felt more comfortable (in the long run) in an environment where if a kid was messing with me I could just tell any adult around and get them to make the kid stop. Bus drivers are too busy to handle disputes between kids.

    Havva, the first time I rode a city bus I was 18 and had decided to stay on my college campus over the summer rather than return to my mom’s home. I was already into walking, but walking to get my own groceries (and other items) at Walmart turned out to be quite the task. Furthermore, I wondered how many people thought I was some hobo when I was walking back 3 miles carrying bags. So I tried the city bus and discovered I liked that more. After 2-3 times riding the bus, I became more and more comfortable with the idea that these are just regular people, and it’s allowed me to emphasize more with my fellow human being I see on the street. There’s really no good reason I shouldn’t have been introduced sooner to the public bus than I really was… even though that bus system where I lived in Louisiana from 10-24 years old was pretty sparse and infrequent.

  62. Stephanie September 2, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

    @buffy, it is both- the attendance area for the school is enormous, and includes for one of the programs, the entire northeast quarter of the city. There are some areas where the median home price is 400k. There are some areas and schools with 90% free and reduced lunch or under enrolled schools because children just do not live in the area. We are an urban school district of 54,000 kids, so very few schools are as homogenous as small districts often are, at least in many of the suburbs around here. The school will be 1000 kids by 2015, as large as a high school in most districts.

    The school used to be a k-8, and a magnet school. It is not now; it is 100% middle school(just had its ribbon cutting today!). Now it is 1/2 neighborhood (large neighborhood, including tony tree lined neighborhoods, tight knit low income neighborhoods, and very scary and unsafe neighborhoods) and 1/2 the gifted program. Any middle schooler who lives more than 2 miles away but is assigned to go (so does not choose) is given yellow bus service. Middle schoolers who live 0-2 miles away are expected to walk, but are given the option of a metro bus if they live 1.5-2 miles away, unless there is no safe way to walk. The parent complaint is that there is no safe way for her daughter to walk- I don’t recognize her name from the group that has been agitating, but I imagine tpshe and the group are linked somehow. The strip clubs are active when the kids get out of school, and prostitutes hang out in the gun store parking lot with pimps with guns, and businesses keep gettinng shut down like whack a mole up there for mob ties, but then other ones spring up(in an earlier life I was a defense lawyer, and this was a hotbed of new clients for me). Parts of lake city are lovely, but not all of it.

    I don’t know why the story was so vague about the half mile/not half mile. I imagine it is that the bus drops off a half mile from school, or she has to walk a half mile to the bus. Bus service in seattle is terrible(now, after a lot of cuts), but that doesn’t seem like the point of the article.

  63. gap.runner September 3, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    You never know who is riding a public bus? I can help…When I rode the public bus to school in the mid-’70s, the other people on it were fellow students or senior citizens. During the gas crisis at that time, more commuters of all ages started riding the bus. New riders were told to ask either the oldest or youngest person waiting at the stop for information, since they were the “experts.” In my town now students ride the city bus (there is no school bus) along with senior citizens and tourists of all ages. During ski season, the city bus is full of skiers of all ages because one line stops at a major lift.

    As to the 12 sex offenders, did the mother actually research what they did to get on the list? Did they pee in public or moon someone on a drunken dare one time, or are they all serial rapists? It obviously did not bother her about the sex offenders when she moved into her neighborhood. She is looking for an excuse to carry on coddling her daughter.

  64. Jill September 3, 2014 at 9:30 am #

    @SOA: Calm down! I was joking! I’m all for unmarked vans, especially ones driven by men wearing clown makeup who waylay children walking alone and offer them candy.
    Also joking. Those kind of unmarked vans are bad. The rest are okay.

  65. Shannon September 3, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    I used to bus from across town to get to the alternative school that used to be in that building, and it was a half mile walk to the bus stop I preferred to take when going home. There was a little wooded hill we walked up, usually with 20-30 other kids, and then we crossed the (previously mentioned by another commenter) big “highway” at one of the lights. The rest of that area is a very nice neighborhood, and what it lacks in sidewalks, it makes up for in lack of traffic. There’s also another school just across the street, so there are plenty of kids around. I even had some female friends who would occasionally walk a 5 mile stretch to get to and from, when they didn’t feel like sitting on the bus for an hour, and they had to cross multiple very busy streets.

  66. Jill September 3, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    Something that was addressed in passing by @Peter is that middle-class suburbanites tend to view public transportation as rolling dens of violent crime, shiftlessness and debauchery.
    They say, “You never know who could be riding!” But what they really mean is, “Ew, poor people! If they weren’t so lazy and so busy smoking crack they’d have good jobs, and could afford to drive cars.”

  67. SOA September 3, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    Sorry Jill I thought you were being for real. Kinda hard to read sarcasm sometimes on the internet

  68. SOA September 3, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    Just to get the facts out there. As far as sexual offenders go, it is hard to know EXACTLY what they did. They don’t give the every little detail on the record sheets that are available at like familywatchdog. It will say something like “Indecent exposure” but you don’t know if that was whacking off in front of school kids or just peeing behind a bush. Those details are left out.

    Or if it says aggravated sexual assault, you don’t know if that was his wife saying he raped her to get back at him or if he actually raped her.

    So you know, you can have an idea what the offense was, but there is not a way to tell exactly what was done and if it was really a dangerous criminal behavior or not.

  69. axiom September 3, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    I used to bike 3.5 miles to school when I was 11. On really cold or wet days I might get a ride on the back of my dad’s motorbike. We didn’t even have a car at the time.

    And it’s safer now than it’s ever been, it just feels less safe to most pople because the news these days repeats the very few horror stories from around the entire country 24/7

  70. Dhewco September 3, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

    BTK is Kansas (Wichita), Hineata. I read all the responses, but don’t think anyone corrected that.

    If I was a SO, I doubt I’d go hunting on a public bus. Too many witnesses. If you’re such a maniac that you’re abducting in public, I doubt anything will stop you.

    I haven’t heard of a rash of maniacs, so I’ll never understand the panic.

  71. anonymous mom September 3, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    @Lark: Amen! I also live in an inner-city neighborhood and, like you, I feel it’s pretty darn safe. I’m always surprised to hear suburbanites tell me that when they drive through my city, they won’t stop at red lights, as if there are carjackers on every corner. That’s just not reality. Yes, there are parts of some neighborhoods that you would want to avoid at 2 or 3 a.m., but you are almost guaranteed to be safe in most of the city most of the time.

  72. vikki September 3, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    1/2 a mile is not far. It only takes about 7 to 10 minutes to walk that far.

  73. Bob Cavanaugh September 3, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    Ok I tried to submit this last night but it apparently didn’t work. Thanks Greg, this is not at all the area I was thinking of.

  74. Bob Cavanaugh September 3, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

    Sorry for my comments so close together, but just remembered what else I was going to say last night. Not to get too offtopic, but it sure seems until reading some of the comments around here that Seattle is one of the more freerange parts of the country. Ok there are pockets everywhere, but when you search Seattle on this site as I did last night, you get 16 results, of which 3 aren’t really related to the city itself. Of the remaining 13, only 1 involves the cops. You certainly don’t hear about parents getting arrested around here for ridiculous things and I’d like to keep it that way.
    Re: public transportation
    The drunk guys and other undesirables are the impression I get about busses like Greyhound, but not your average city bus. If you take the bus often enough the drivers will get to know you.

  75. Heather September 3, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    She is complaining about a 1/2 mile? That is what maybe 2 bus stops? It takes my slow walking 11 yr old 10 min to 15 min to walk his 1/2 mile to school. It usually takes him that long because OMG he stops and says hello to the guy who runs the corner store and sometimes the Elderly ladies in front of the apartment building and then then neighbour if they are outside. I know I am a bad parent letting me kid talk to people who are not related and haven’t undergone thorough police checks.

  76. Papilio September 3, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    “suburbanites tell me that when they drive through my city, they won’t stop at red lights”

    Sounds like THEY could be the biggest danger there…

  77. Warren September 3, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

    Mine usually took twice as long to walk to school, as I thought it should take. Took me awhile to figure out, but when I noticed our German Shep wasn’t getting fat, but we were going thru almost three times as many treats………..well I found out. They would take treats for every dog on the way to school.

  78. Mary September 4, 2014 at 3:01 am #

    Qualifying for reduced lunch doesn’t really mean anything especially regarding how sketchy a neighborhood might be. Looking at the 2015 guideline my family would qualify for it and we own our home in a very nice neighborhood, have cars < 5 years old, husband has a full time job/health insurance, we have very little debt, send our kids to private school, etc. If I wasn't a SAHM then surely our income would bounce us, but that right there is indicative of privilege (that I can stay home) not economic hardship. Did I mention our AC bill is $300 a month in the summer? Folks in Seattle certainly don't have to budget for that and we still don't live in a part of town that would be sketchy even by Seattle's insane standards.

    I'm seriously rolling through my memory of all the neighborhoods in north Seattle/lake city trying to come up with a terrifying neighborhood a 12 year old shouldn't frequent in broad daylight. I asked my buddy who's a local area police officer born and raised in what I'd say is a "real" urban area, and I could almost hear his eyes rolling over the phone.

  79. Wait? September 4, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    As far as how much a half mile is … well, a league is what the average person can walk in a hour. I happen to know that Seven leagues is twenty-one miles. A simple bit of division means a league comes out to being three miles. That means a mile is 20 minutes. Yeah, a half mile is ten minutes for the average adult. For most physical things, 12 year olds are adults. Just very small ones.

  80. Reader September 4, 2014 at 9:45 pm #

    When I started high school in Australia (which is in the year kids turn either 12 or 13), I went to a school that had students coming from all over the large city. Some took two trains and a bus home, a journey of over an hour and a half! Now I understand that not all neighbourhoods are equally safe for walking, but I don’t see how a kid that age would be in serious danger on a public bus? They could always sit at the front near the driver.

  81. Captain America September 5, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    My kid bikes a mile and a half to school; 5th grade. Didn’t you use to?

  82. Juanita September 5, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

    I find it inconceivable that this mom didn’t know that Seattle kids ride public transport for middle school and high school. Unless she just moved here. This has been the case for ages.

    And for @hineata, Seattle was not home to the Green River killer … that was in the lovely suburbs far south of the city. You know, the “safe” suburbs. And BTK was in Kansas.

  83. gw September 5, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

    To be fair, if the Metro bus they’re expecting the kid to ride is the infamous 358, I’m with the mom.