Who's to Protect Waterloo's Children?

September 06, 1994

For parents today, protecting the day-to-day safety of children is understandably of paramount concern. Reported abuses and assaults pierce the airwaves with nerve-wracking frequency. Locale no longer seems to matter since crimes appear increasingly random. It also probably does no good to point out that the fear of crime exceeds one's chances of being victimized.

When it comes to children, of course, no one wants to take a chance.

That is why it is easy to sympathize with the parents of Waterloo Elementary School, who want the Howard County school system to provide bus transportation for about 70 students who must walk a Columbia pathway to school each day. The parents contend that the pathway is unsafe for young children because of crime in the area. But Superintendent Michael E. Hickey has concluded the path is as safe as any in Columbia and has discontinued the bus service.

The parents, angered by this decision, are appealing. They are also causing massive traffic jams in front of the school each day as an unusual number transport their children back and forth. Others have made day care arrangements that keep their children from having to walk the path.

Undoubtedly, school board members are already getting phone calls from those who are irate and feel inconvenienced by Dr. Hickey's stance. The pressure for the board to relent and reverse the superintendent's decision should not be underestimated. It should, however, be resisted.

The parents of Waterloo, in coming up with makeshift alternatives to safeguard their children, are doing what they should do. Like countless other parents in other communities who are concerned about their children's safety to and from school, they have a responsibility to provide whatever precautions are necessary. No matter how great the potential for crime to occur on the pathway -- and we think the potential has been overblown -- it is not always the responsibility of the school system to provide a remedy. Law enforcement officials, community block watches and, yes, parents must also contribute to a solution.

Like the fear of crime, the tendency to look to others to relieve us from personal duty is too prevalent and can't always be indulged.

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