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School leaders think Florida's hazardous walking statute needs to be updated to keep kids safe

Posted at 3:26 PM, Jun 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-12 22:59:54-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — School leaders for the largest school district in the Tampa Bay area say Florida's hazardous walking condition statute is outdated.

The school board, along with Hillsborough County's superintendent held a transportation workshop on Tuesday to discuss what defines Florida's hazardous walking conditions.

One thing Hillsborough's top transportation boss made clear was that the statute does not say kids need to have a sidewalk to get to school.

ABC Action News has shown videos of parents documenting their own kids routes to schools.

East Bay H.S. mother posts video about students walking unsafe streets

Hillsborough County leaders have since worked on capital improvements in the area to help get kids to and from school safely.

In the past four years, Hillsborough County Public Schools has decreased the number of bus routes from 1,035 in the 2015-16 school year to 837 last year.

The state only provides funding for students who reside more than two miles from their assigned school. And they base those conditions on Florida's hazardous walking conditions that is defined in section 1006.23.

School board members were frustrated with Florida's own statute, saying they want to see the definition changed.

Board member Melissa Snively asked transportation leaders why Hillsborough can't write its own policies, and pioneer change.

However, Transportation Director Jim Beekman said the district doesn't have their own traffic engineers who study safety.

Hillsborough leaders say instead of concentrating on giving courtesy busing to kids within two miles, lawmakers should look at changing language within the statute to get kids in unsafe routes to school a bus.

If the hazardous walking conditions statute was updated, it would force the state to give district's more money for busing.

Representative Michael Beltran brought up legislation last session to bring back courtesy busing, but the bill died.

He said he plans to file a new bill next session because adequate school buses is the right thing to do.

Beltran said students are walking to school in drainage ditches, without crosswalks and proper infrastructure.

He has not started drafting the new bill, but said he will find a different approach this next session to gain support.