School bus drop-off safety questioned

August 27, 2010 4:49:45 PM PDT
There's a new concern for parents after a bus driver admitted to dropping off students in the middle of the street. Turns out, what the driver is doing is legal. Some parents pay for bus service when their children are not eligible to ride district busses. That's what we found here. It's not an HISD bus in question, but the children on it are HISD students. And some parents feel the kids are being put at risk.

On what can be a busy Dunvale Road, a few hundred feet south of Westheimer, Eyewitness News took on Wednesday a picture of a school bus stopped in the middle of the road, dropping off a 5-year-old boy.

"It's crazy; it's crazy," mother Uzma Khalid said.

Khalid is the mother of the boy in the picture.

"It's scary to me, for me, for my son," she said. "We both are standing in the middle of the road."

We showed this picture to Houston Police Traffic Sgt. A.J. Washington.

"That's pretty common practice," he said.

Washington says there's nothing illegal about a bus stopping in the middle of a road like this; the driver had flashing lights and the stop sign arm engaged.

In fact, Washington says the angle at which the driver stopped might be evidence of her attempt at increasing its visibility.

State law requires driver's in both directions to stop on roads where there's no median.

A handbook issued for driver certification though shows the area the child was crossing as one of the most dangerous around the bus.

"Oh no, I would always recommend they let them out on the right side on the curb -- always," Washington said.

The bus driver admits dropping students off in the middle of the road regularly, but with the youngest ones, she insists she only does so when a parent is present; if no parents are there, she says the child stays on the bus until she can find them.

"En occasiones, es necessario," said Rosa Ibarra, owner of the Zeyda Michell School Bus Company, which drops of Khalid's son.

Ibarra insists this mother previously told her she didn't want to wait for her son in the hot sun on the east side of Dunvale, something Khalid denies.

Ibarra says stopping in the street is also a function of her schedule, that parents expect their kids at a certain time. And she wants to keep those who pay her happy.

The Texas school bus driver recertification manual suggests busses unload on the right side of the roadway whenever possible. Concerned parents say they're just trying to prevent another death. They remind us of the 9-year-old boy who was killed by a private school bus in 2001 outside Benevidez Elementary.


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