By Erin Kay, CFCC Student Fellow 2019-2020
In Baltimore City, the lack of sufficient public transportation contributes to students missing time in the classroom. When you think about truancy, you might picture a student skipping school for various reasons to have fun, stay at home, or even get into trouble. Realistically, this is not always the case. In the first few restorative practice circles, part of CFCC’s Truancy Court Program, in one Baltimore City Public High School, it has become evident that many of the students are not a part of the program based on absences. Rather, getting to school “on time” is the issue.
Students who rely on public transportation to get to school find themselves on routes that are not always reliable. Hearing from these students reminded me of my own experiences with Baltimore City public transportation while I was in high school in Baltimore City. I remember constantly being passed by a bus because it was already too full or walking farther in the opposite direction to increase my chances of making it on the bus before the dozens of other people boarded.
Baltimore City puts the responsibility of getting to school in the student’s hands after grade 5. Students who do not have a parent to drive them to school or who do not attend a school within walking distance might find their way to the nearest bus stop. Those traveling greater distances are forced to take more than one bus, increasing their chance of frequent tardiness. In June of 2017, there was a citywide change in bus routes, route numbers, and even the elimination of some stops. This affected everyone who relied on buses, including students in the Baltimore City Public Schools middle and high schools.
Many of the students are not labeled as truant because they stay home. Their frequent tardiness adds up and causes them to miss class time. In order to make it to school on time, students often need to wake up early, leaving additional room for the possibility of unforeseeable delays. Unfortunately, many students are already dealing with personal issues. Adding on the unreliability of public transportation may be asking them to take on more than some are able to do.