BOSTON (CBS) – How far is too far for a high school kid to walk to school? In Boston the city doesn’t provide transportation if students live less than two miles from their schools. On Wednesday, some people called for that to change.
“I wish I could take the bus,” says 15-year-old Elijah Perryman. But that’s not possible for the ninth grader.
It’s a mile and a half walk to Madison Park High School, and a mile and a half home again. “It’s kind of hard for me to walk, like gang-related. They might try to come at me because I’m by myself,” he says.
So Wednesday about 20 friends, family and community activists from the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative walked him home, while demanding that the Boston School Department expand its MBTA pass program to all high school students. “We need to invest in our young people, and we need to invest in their transportation,” says Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson.
Right now most Boston students who live more than two miles from school receive a “T” pass called an M-7 they can use for bus or subway transportation, seven days a week; if they live closer, no dice.
Walk organizers say about 7,000 high school kids don’t have the M-7. The cost to provide them passes would be about $2-million per year.
“I think that if we are promising young people free education, that part of that is getting to and from schools. So there shouldn’t be a cost to families,” says Sheena Collier, of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative.
If families by the pass for their child, the cost is $30 per month, a price many can’t afford, especially if they have more than one child. Advocates say that means it’s difficult for some students to participate in after school programs, get internships or hold down a job.
“It would help me a lot so I could get to school early,” Elijah says.
“This is also a component to closing the achievement gap. If young people cannot get to school, if they don’t feel safe in their movement back and forward to school, they are going to have an issue in the classroom,” according to Councilor Jackson.
We asked the Boston School Dept. to respond to the marchers demands. A representative sent us a statement reading: “Boston Public Schools respects the power of student voice, and listens to community concerns on this issue.”