ATLANTA -- Parents couldn't wait Tuesday nightto hear the school superintendent's announcement Wednesday about additional bus routes, which could mean their children will get buses.

They've been campaigning for the buses -- to drive their children to and from school safely --because the kids are having to walk through some of the city's dangerous neighborhoods.

Atlanta Public Schools began, this school year, strictly enforcing a policy that elementary school students who live a mile or less from school will not get bus service. The long-standing policy also applies to students in middle school and high school who live a mile and a half from school.

Parents and children who live in what the superintendent's office describes as "hazardous" neighborhoods -- neighborhoods dealing with heavy crime, heavy traffic or other dangers to walkers -- have been lobbying for exceptions to the policy so their children can get school buses again.

One of the parents in particular who stood up to the superintendent and school board at the board meeting Monday night has poured hard work and tears into her mission.

"When I spoke against the board on yesterday, what went through my mind...."

Dominique Buford speaks rapidly, with the resolve of every mom fighting for her children's safety.

She talks of walking up to the board and superintendent in that meeting room packed with parents and students thinking of the faces, the lives, of her children and their friends.

She spoke that night of her family's neighborhood -- too dangerous for children to walk the mile to school.

She and one of her two daughters were in tears as they stood there and Ms. Buford explained that her daughter used to wake up excited to go to school, but now is too afraid to walk there. They pleaded to get the school bus back.

"Until you guys walk that neighborhood, walk those streets, walk Astor Avenue," she said to board members and the superintendent, "you won't understand how these kids feel. The parents are scared to walk the neighborhood. So imagine what someone's child feels like."

Other parents in the room applauded her.

"What went through my mind," she said Tuesday evening, "was I don't want to see or bury a child or anybody's child, or see a child hurt, from what could have been prevented.... The route is absolutely terrible. There's abandoned houses everywhere, the sidewalks are cracked up, they have to cross three, busy intersections, there's shrubs and woods everywhere, there's dogs, there's older children that are bullying the younger kids as they walk through...."

And -- there is crime.

"It's just unacceptable, it's very unacceptable. That's not a safe neighborhood for those kids to walk through."

Ms. Buford wants to take Superintendent Erroll Davis at his word -- that he hears the parents loud and clear, they made a difference, and he will identify the neighborhoods that are too hazardous for kids walking to school, and get them buses, fast.

"The kids seeing the parents step up to take action," Buford said, "it means a lot to the kids. It shows them that as parents that we're involved, we care about them, we love them, we support them.... I think if he's honest about what he's saying, if he's going to take action and get these kids some school buses, I think that will be great."

Read or Share this story: