AUSTIN, Texas — Austin Independent School District school buses make thousands of stops a day, picking kids up and dropping them off, but the KVUE Defenders found out the district had to move a bus stop because of a safety threat.
A letter from AISD went to some students and parents of Anderson High School, telling them their school bus stop would be in a different spot starting last Thursday because of a “safety issue.”
The Defenders investigated and found out that “issue” was a sex offender living right where kids were dropped off and picked up.
The old school bus stop was located at Tamarack Trail and Palomar Lane, which was moved one block over last week to Palomar Lane and Silver Creek Drive.
“When you’re in the school bus business, the number one thing is the safety of students,” AISD Executive Director of Transportation Chris Hafezizadeh said.
Hafezizadeh said the sex offender living near the bus stop was a 31-year-old man.
Records from the Texas Department of Public Safety Sex Offender Registry show that man inappropriately used communication systems to talk to a 14-year-old girl.
But AISD didn’t know that man lived near the bus stop until parents complained.
“My scheduler heard it from a couple parents that the bus stop you have is in front of a sex offender’s house,” Hafezizadeh said.
AISD does look at where sex offenders live when choosing bus stop locations.
“All of these red dots that you see all over Austin, those are registered sex offenders we are able to import,” Hafezizadeh said.
District staff records about 1,400 to 1,500 sex offenders within AISD transportation boundaries.
But the Defenders found out they are only checking that about twice a year.
“Do you think two to three times a year is enough to be checking whether there are sex offenders that are near those stops?” KVUE Defenders asked Hafazizadeh.
“Maybe yes, maybe not,” Hafezizadeh said. “It all depends how often that data is officially updated. I don’t know the answer to that.”
AISD faces another challenge when choosing where buses stop.
The district won’t let elementary schoolers walk more than a quarter-mile, middle school students walk more than a half-mile, or high schoolers walk more than a mile away from a bus stop, according to the district’s transportation website.
So even though they consider sex offender locations, AISD can have a hard time finding stops with no sex offenders nearby.
“In a couple blocks, we may have many of them,” Hafezizadeh said. “It is very hard for us to make a decision of exactly where to move that stop in those situations.”
Hafezizadeh said there are no plans right now to change the number of times AISD updates its sex offender database. AISD transportation also counts on parents reaching out if they know about safety threats near bus stops.
You can check to see if there is a sex offender near your child’s school bus stop here.
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