In response to Fairfax County Public Schools’ failure to move a school bus stop located directly in front of the home of a man who committed a sex crime against a child, Delegate David Englin (D-45) yesterday introduced House Bill 291 to prohibit school officials from locating bus stops within 50 feet of the home of a registered sex offender and to require school districts to have a written plan to account for safe location of bus stops.
“When parents in the community brought this issue to my attention, I assumed that changing the law wouldn’t be necessary and that Fairfax County Public Schools would simply move the bus stop down the block,” said Englin. “Unfortunately, when we repeatedly petitioned school officials to move this bus stop, they refused — they refused even to move the stop a half block away — and instead responded by condescendingly dismissing the concerns of these parents. Therefore, I regret that I am left with no choice but to create a law that will require two common-sense policies: First, each school district should have some kind of written policy or plan for locating bus stops; and second, no school bus stop can be located within 50 feet of the home of a registered sex offender.”
Englin noted that neither of the requirements of this proposed law should be especially onerous on school officials, nor are they intended to harass individuals who have otherwise paid for their crimes.
“Like most parents, I simply think that as a matter of public policy school districts should not require children to convene each morning in front of the home of somebody who has committed a sex crime against a child,” said Englin, whose son attends elementary school in the City of Alexandria. “This is common sense and really should not require legislation.”
“Dean Tistadt, the school system’s chief operating officer, says that traffic poses more of a danger than anything else, but last year the elementary school bus stop was moved from a safe, quiet street to the most heavily traveled area in the neighborhood because of a woman who was afraid the children would tromp on her grass,” said Kathie Truitt, one of the parents who first brought the issue to Englin’s attention. “But he will not budge on the bus being directly in front of this convicted sex offender’s home. Statistics show that a child at a bus stop — especially before school — is more vulnerable to stranger abduction than any other time. That is when the predator knows that it will be several hours before the child is reported missing. The school bus stop is the number one place a predator seeks his victim.”
“We are not, as the school supertintendant claims, the only group to ask that a county move a bus stop for this reason,” said Truitt, referring to a letter from Jack D. Dale, FCPS superintendent, defending the district’s refusal to move the bus stop. “Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and other school systems larger than ours have successfully implemented programs that keep school buses at least a 1,000 feet from the predator’s home.”
“It’s truly unfortunate that such a law is necessary, but protecting our children is not a partisan issue, and I invite my colleagues — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike — to co-patron and support this reasonable, common-sense public policy,” said Englin, who noted that his repeated requests for a copy of FCPS’ written policy on located school bus stops have been ignored.