Councilors: Making BPS middle-school students take the T could put them at risk, drive families out of city

The City Council voted today to urge the School Committee to hold off action on a proposal to eliminate school buses for 4,500 middle-school students until it can undergo more study.

City councilor Tito Jackson (Roxbury), who sponsored the unanimously approved motion, said making seventh and eighth graders take the T to school instead of traditional school buses could expose them to far more danger and may not even save the city any money.

The School Committee could vote tonight to offer the students CharlieCards to get to and from school in a cost-saving move. Most students at Boston Latin School and Boston Latin Academy, which start in seventh grade, are already offered student CharlieCards.

But Jackson and Councilor Charles Yancey (Dorchester) pointed to both basic transportation safety - Jackson said school buses have a far lower accident fatality rate than other forms of transportation - and greater risks from street violence.

Yancey pointed to something simple: School buses have a bar that reduces the odds of students getting hit by cars when crossing in front of the buses.

Jackson noted the city's new gun buyback program and said he's not convinced it makes sense "to put 11, 12, 13 and 14-year-olds into that mix." He said BPS only has 75 school police officers "and we're not going to get any more."

McCarthy said moving to student CharlieCards could even drive families out of the city. Parents, he said, were promised safe transportation to and from school and now BPS wants to take that away.

Councilor Sal LaMattina (North End, East Boston, Charlestown) said there are already many parents in East Boston who don't even consider exam schools because of the long ride on the T their kids would face to the schools.

Councilor Ayanna Pressley (at large) echoed the sentiments, saying she is concerned about gang pressures for male students and street harassment for female students. She added she's concerned about the impact on student work in classrooms of such pressures.

Jackson said that under the current contract with the company that runs BPS school buses, it gets paid based on the total number of students, regardless of how many actually ride the buses.

Yancey said school officials couldn't tell him exactly how much they would save with the move. "How dare they go ahead and have a vote when they have not done their homework on a matter!"

Councilor Steve Murphy (at large) noted the council hold some say over city budgets and cautioned the council will take any School Committee vote for the move into consideration.

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Comments

No Councilor

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Those big yellow buses that their currently on drove families out of the city. Why are we still playing musical chair with kids, let them go to schools in their neighborhood with their neighbors.

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You are thinking outside

the box. Brilliant! Kids going to school in their neighborhood? Egad, its a Watson can you hear me moment or a screw em I'm from Wellesley Judge Garrity moment.

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BPS delayed implementing

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BPS delayed implementing federal desegregation requirement for YEARS because of the racist politics of the school committee - Garrity's hands were some what tied. Look up Loise Day Hicks and others that were in power at the time.

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I don't need

to google what I went through. There were numerous options not considered like putting the schools into federal receivership from day one with all schools receiving equitable funding and resources. Taking families out of their neighborhood schools has been an educational and community disaster. The community and family bond with its schools was sacrificed for a social experiment that failed. The people who could chose their kids over a social program. The families that couldn't move out rode out turmoil and failing schools for the last 40 years. White families that put their kids first were racists and Black families that put their kids first were called METCO parents.

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Exactly

Kids could have been kept in schools within walking distance - Boston is quite tightly packed. Cambridge managed to effectively desegregate by adjusting the school zone boundaries - no bussing, just *gasp* mixing the neighborhoods together at the edges!

Boston politicians were warned, and should have acted when other cities were put under Federal orders for far less egregious nonsense. They didn't listen and played local politics. Heaven Forbid any white kids have to go to a school with their black neighbors! They chose to grandstand and be racist idiots rather than solving problems.

Boston has nobody to blame but their own hometown heroes for what happened.

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Then- not quite

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Boston wasn't as diversely settled in 1973 as it is now, and I know that some would say that residentially it is still pretty segregated. Black kids in Roxbury and white kids in Southie attended black and white schools, and walking wasn't an option to get these kids into schools that were anything near desegregated. Cambridge is different- from any point a universe of worlds is (or at least back in the day was) accessible within walking distance.

Now, allocating resources fairly throughout the city- that would have been the solution. But somehow the simplest solution doesn't work when bullheaded people are calling the shots.

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My 15 year old brother is

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My 15 year old brother is staying with me for the summer, and I can't imagine a safer and easier way for him to get around than getting him a T pass. I saw in DC kids taking the subway everywhere, and I'm pretty certain the crime rate there is substantially higher than here.

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Conflicted here

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On the one hand, our daughter has been taking the T since 7th grade, she's done fine and she's done things after school she probably wouldn't have otherwise, given that we kind of live in the middle of nowhere and she's probably a more confident person. Yay for independence!

On the other hand, we don't live in a dangerous neighborhood, so she hasn't had to deal with the sort of issues Jackson and Pressley brought up today.

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Cost savings?

I can understand wanting more data on savings, but the safety concerns seem a bit over blown. Is there a reason why BLS and BLA 7th graders can ride the 'T without incident but others won't manage?

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Hmm...

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Part of it probably has something to do with the MBTA supplementals (i.e. "charters", "school day extras", "trippers", etc.). Nothing puts your mind at ease like your kid getting a semi-dedicated bus to and from school. Also, BLS/BLA kids are wielding those big, heavy Latin textbooks. Wanna take my lunch money, punk? How about a face full of Cicero!

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Not all the time

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Those buses don't wait around for kids who stay after school for sports, clubs, etc.

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Good Point

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I do recall a few years ago there being a late supp trip on the 9701s (yeah, among the last of the oddball route numbers) at 4:00p for the detention kids at Brighton High. But yeah, seems the focus is on the early afternoon surge.

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The school system's too cheap to

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The school system's too cheap to actually buy us real Latin books. Reading Cicero consists of reading roughly forty pages of printer paper pages stapled together. Those fifteen year old math textbooks, however...

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I had books at BLS that were

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I had books at BLS that were used by my brother who attended 10 years before I did.....

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Former t riding BLA student.

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Former t riding BLA student. Female. While taking the t was fun as a young female you were subject to the pervs squeezing your butt or your boobs. All of my girlfriends had similar experience. You learned to deal and eventually not tolerate or developed the defensive "train stance." Cell phones maybe have changed this since now you can take the perverts's pic and post on line. For boys maybe fighting would be a problem especially with all the guns. Neighborhood schools would be better unless you live in a crappy neighborhood with crappy schools which is why bussing was implemented in the first place.

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Seems like addresses the smaller issue here

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This is like keeping kids off the common to avoid goose poop instead of trying to keep the geese off the common....why doesn't someone try to reduce the number of gang members that regularly ride the MBTA?

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Because people, especially

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Because people, especially those that frequent this site, would immediately howl about the police harassing "students" and racial profiling. Damned if you do...

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"gang" members are not on the bus

if you don't make enough paper for a ride, you are not a member of anything. There exists a bunch of idiots that dress in the "colors" of said loose criminal organization and provide free advertising (read intimidation) . I am not saying these people aren't criminals. I am just saying that criminals on the bus and subway are not organized people in any sense.

As a nerdy kid...

I would have rather taken public transportation where I'd be with a whole lot of adults in a public place. As I recall a school bus was not a happy place as the other students could do what they wanted without fear of punishment. The bus driver was too busy driving to know or care what the kids were doing and even if they did care they have little authority.

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Maybe.....

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Maybe, the children could attend schools in their own neighborhoods? Now that is just crazy, we have bus drivers that need employment.

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How many times

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Do people need to point out that we are talking about 7th and 8th graders whose middle schools would not necessarily be in their local area, even in the "best" of all possible worlds?

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Don't other large cities use their public transit for schools?

I don't know if they still do it, but NYC used to give free Metrocards to school children in order to help ease the need for busing costs. You could only use the cards between 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. and were good for three rides a day – to school, to one after-school activity and then home.

Transportation costs are such a HUGE part of the education budget in BPS. If you could find a way to help lower that, you could ease a lot of these budget cut problems the schools are facing.

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How about the hordes of kids

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How about the hordes of kids are big enough when school let's out. The T cops are in force at Forest Hills, Ashmont, etc when the kids get out. Granted, most behave, but, are they capable of handling an increased number of little "angels"?

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"But the SUBWAY is SCARY BLOO BLOO BLOO"

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"McCarthy said moving to student CharlieCards could even drive families out of the city. Parents, he said, were promised safe transportation to and from school and now BPS wants to take that away."

Any family who is going to leave the city because their kids are going to take the T instead of a big yellow bus is welcome to pack up their suburban minivan and leave. We don't want you here.

Also echoing the initial anon commenter's point re: busing in general.

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what was point of busing?

I believe it was to ensure consistant quality and financial support for all public schools. How much did gasoline cost back then? 35 cents a gallon. I think a new solution is necessary. The mbta is more efficient then yellow buses, but a student T pass is permission to show up late every day. High school students have Tpass and their tardiness is high. The worst part is that BPS provides yellow buses to many high school students and taxes pay for all of it. Even if we just defaulted kids to community school assignment and but still allowed choice, we would save a ton of money.

PS middle school kids at BLS and BLA do take a T bus, but in Dorchester there are 2 special 19 buses that pick them up a Gallivan Blvd and takes them all the way in. I assume other neighborhoods have a similar arrangements.

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RE: the special buses

Yes, there are similar buses serving most neighborhoods. They make their usual run, but with the route altered to end at BLS or BLA as the final destination. However, they are much less like the yellow school bus and much more like any other MBTA route. Consider:

  1. These buses are open for anybody to use, not just students.
  2. They are not always scheduled to match student needs -- my daughter occasionally takes it home, but never in the morning.
  3. A bus that is not exclusively students is if anything safer, as there will be at least some adults and other responsible types on board.

I do think the special buses are a good middle ground, and perhaps such service will be deployed next year for additional schools. But they will only be part of the overall solution.

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"out of service" is the title

"out of service" is the title running on the latin bus in my neighborhood. I suppose thats a bus driver thing. I am sure it is technically open to all. But the one I see is just kids

but about busing. neighborhood school should not apply to exam schools of course. And there should be some allowance for kids to choose non neighborhood school, but their parents can get them there. Obviously there will still be kids that are over 2 miles from their neighborhood school and will need transportation. But we can save so much money by transitioning.

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What busing is about

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Busing used to be a limousine-liberal remedy for desegregation that was ironically in direct contravention of Brown vs, Board of Education. That case was about a girl suing to walk to her neighborhood school.

Now, busing is all about the buses themselves, the contracts, and the bus drivers and their politically powerful union.

Busing is now a "self-licking ice cream cone." When the city is 95% minority, Boston will still have busing, will still have drivers' strikes disrupting school, and still have contracting scandals for the bus contracts.

The unanimous support for this resolution shows that councilors know where their bread is buttered. Makes ya sick.

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The Good and the Bad

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I think a lot of the "T is dangerous" is a bit alarmist. It's reminiscent of how Lenore Skenazy received hate mail for allowing her 9-year-old use the NYC subway. Kids have used public transportation on their own for as long as there's been public transportation and it's statistically safer than being shuttled around in cars by their parents (auto crashes are one of the leading causes of death and injury to children in the United States. Taking the T can be a great option for a lot of students as it would give them more flexibility for getting to school and to after school activities and jobs. The Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition is working on getting the MBTA to institute a $10/month youth pass for just that reason.

The real issue here is equity. The poorest neighborhoods in Boston have the worst T service, and schools aren't always near a T stop or a bus line either. So a commute to school can end up having multiple transfers and waiting for delayed, crowded buses. This would certainly cause a lot of good kids to be tardy more often through no fault of their own and negatively affect their education.

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