Parents in a small Texas town are outraged as a policy is instituted forbidding them to walk their children to school. According to the new policy, parents could actually be arrested for trespassing if they walk their children to school or walk to pick up their children from school. The school defends the policy as being created in the interest of safety, but parents believe the school is violating parental rights.
Bear Branch Elementary School in Magnolia, Texas, has infuriated parents, and they’re actually pulling their children from the school. Holly Ray, the school principal, has created a new policy forbidding parents to walk onto school grounds. If they ignore the policy and walk their children to school, she says they are trespassing and could be arrested. The new policy is being enforced by constables in Montgomery County, and parents have even been threatened with being arrested if they’re caught walking on the school property. The children must now either ride the bus or find their parents in the car line, as parents can pick up children in their cars.
According to a She Knows parenting article, parents have started pulling their children from Bear Branch Elementary as a result of the new policy. Wendy Jarman is one of them. She has enrolled her children in a private school. She lives in the neighborhood directly behind the school and had always walked her children to school. Now that she’s no longer allowed to do so, her children will no longer be attending. She spoke to Houston’s Fox 26 and expressed her frustration with Principal Holly Ray.
“She’s threatening to arrest people. They have been cited. They have been threatened, if they step one foot on school property, they will be arrested and charged with who knows what.”
She is not alone. She says this has been happening to a lot of parents. Frank Young is one of them. He was served a trespass warning in September by Montgomery County Constables for being on “all school property of any kind.” The citation informed him that a repeat occurrence could result in criminal trespassing charges filed against him under Texas Penal Code Chapter 30. The Magnolia ISD Student Code of Conduct defines a “parent” as a person “having lawful control of the child.” When parents presented a petition with hundreds of signatures, Young told Fox 26 that the district didn’t bother to try to negotiate a better policy for the parents or change the policy in any way.
Heather Burke and Lindsey Simmons are two of the most recent parents to be threatened by both the school and law enforcement officers with a trespassing charge and even being arrested if they walk to pick up their children again. Both mothers spoke at the Magnolia ISD school board meeting.
Schools must certainly take responsibility for having policies in place that will ensure the safety of their students, but if this is truly about safe dismissal, and not about control as some parents have said, there are other factors to be taken into consideration. Every year in the U.S., almost 400 children are killed after being struck by a vehicle. Having more cars lining up at or near the school parking lot could contribute to more of such incidents. Arguably, parents are the ones who have the most invested in the safety of their own children, and therefore their presence on campus will only help ensure their safety.
KPRC 2 News in Houston reported on the policy, which tells parents they are not allowed to walk to the school or drive to the school or park and go inside the school to retrieve their children. They cannot be on foot on school property at all. They must either send their kids to school and back home on the bus, or sit in a long line to drop off and pick up their children, a lengthy process according to parents. Parents say they begin arriving at the school and lining up at about 2:30 p.m. for a 3:25 p.m. dismissal.
Parents of students in the districts say the lines became considerably longer with the institution of the new policy. When many of the parents in the neighborhood arrived to pick up their children on foot, it facilitated a more rapid dismissal time and minimized the number of vehicles in the car pickup line. Parents feel their rights are being infringed upon when they’re told they can’t step foot on school property.
Now, the district has not only threatened to arrest parents for trespassing, but also has threatened parents with truancy classes. They’ve even threatened to punish students with ISS (In-School Suspension) for their parents’ violations of the drop off and dismissal rules.
Bear Branch Elementary instituted the policy on March 30, and Principal Holly Ray says parents were clearly informed of the rules in the district’s 2015-16 Student Handbook. The school claims a zero-tolerance policy, and cites the Student’s Code of Conduct, a handbook based on Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code. According to a report from Breitbart, Ray insists that parents who walk their children to school “…are hindering the staff’s ability to be accountable for all students’ safety.”
[Featured Image by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock]