Baldwin parent takes issue with school district busing policy


Shawn White said she thinks the Baldwin School District bus zone policy is failing the district’s children. 

In September, her daughter, Zoey, 11, began attending Baldwin Middle School, but in recent weeks she has sometimes faced a difficult challenge: a dangerous, nearly mile-and-a-half walk to school.

The Whites’ home, on Field Place, is 1.48 miles from the school, on Church Street. The district’s transportation policy and state law stipulate that students who live at least 1.5 miles from school are eligible to ride buses. Zoey falls just .2 miles short of qualifying for bus privileges.

Her mother, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker in Long Island City, said that her daughter is too young to walk so far, and in September she asked the school district to issue Zoey a bus pass.

“A mile and a half is just too far,” Shawn White said. “It’s as if the policy was created in the 1960s, and made for stay-at-home moms that can drop off and pick up their kids after school each day.” 

The school district gave Zoey a bus pass in September, and, according to the district, told her mother that it was temporary. For two months Zoey rode a bus without issue, until the Whites were notified that the pass would be revoked, because Shawn had been given enough time to find alternate transportation for her daughter.

On Nov. 21, Shawn put Zoey on the bus to school, despite being told not to. Zoey made it to school, but lost the bus pass at some point during the day. At dismissal, when she got back on the bus for the ride home, Zoey told the Herald, school administrators got on the bus and asked her to step off. She waited in the middle school’s main office for about a half hour, until a friend’s parent picked her up and dropped her off at home.

Shawn White said this made her livid, because she was unable to come and get her daughter in the middle of her workday, and felt as if Zoey were being singled out.

“As an MTA worker, we would never remove or hold an unsupervised minor off of the train,” White said. “We can check if they’re runaways, or in need of assistance, but we’d never remove them from the train. So why would they take my daughter off the bus?” 

White said she kept her daughter home from school for a week after the pass was revoked, and then Zoey started walking to school.

District officials did not respond to requests for comment, but in a letter mailed to Shawn White on Nov. 28, the district stated that it had given her enough time to find alternate means of transportation for Zoey after she was issued a temporary bus pass, and reminded her mother that Zoe did not qualify for school busing. The letter went on to say that the district revoked the bus pass to be in compliance with school policy and state law and school policy, and that it had already made an exception to the rule when it issued Zoey the pass in September. 

Shawn White said she did not believe the bus pass was temporary, and added that it did not have the word “temporary” on it.

In previous years, Zoey had walked a short distance to Steele Elementary School. Now, when she has had to walk, she has started at Field Place and Milburn Avenue — where, ironically, she lives just 200 feet from a middle school bus stop — and headed a mile south to Atlantic Avenue, which she said was the scariest part of her trek. Atlantic and Milburn is a four-lane intersection, and does not have crossing guards. Zoey said she ran across the road every day she has had to walk.

“It’s dangerous to cross this road,” she said. “There are a lot of cars and accidents. Coming to and from school, I feel scared for my life.”

Her mother said that aside from the changing weather and dangerous crossings, making a child walk to and from school is not good for her mental or physical well-being. She said the school is hypocritical for its initiatives promoting well-being, because allowing an 11-year to worry about getting to and from school is a stressful burden on her, and other children like her.

“It shouldn’t be their concern to know how they’re going to get to school,” Shawn said. “Her main concern should be education.”

Now, White said, she pays a neighbor $5 a day to take her daughter to school and pick her up, which she feels is an unfair expense.

And, she said, she believes Zoey and other children like her are being treated unfairly. She added that she hoped parents and district officials could re-examine the busing policy to make it more inclusive.