No easy way to plan school bus stops around sex offender addresses
SUMMERVILLE -- For the past two weeks, children in a Summerville neighborhood have been getting on and off the school bus in front of a registered sex offender's house.
A couple with three children - ages 14, 12 and 9 - asked officials in Dorchester District 2 to move the bus stop, and district leaders agreed to do it. Starting Tuesday morning, the stop will be moved to a nearby corner "that's in the best interest of all children in the area," said district spokeswoman Pat Raynor.
Dave Flournoy, who asked that the stop be moved, said he appreciates the district's response. But he doesn't understand why school districts don't more thoroughly check out the places they pick for bus stops.
Officials from local school districts said they follow state law when establishing bus routes. The law requires them to place stops at least one-fifth of a mile apart. But individual students on a bus route can't be more than one-tenth of a mile from a bus stop if they live directly on the route, or three-tenths of mile if they live on a nearby street. The law also requires districts to consider certain traffic hazards. But it doesn't require them to place bus stops a certain distance from the homes of convicted sex offenders.
A question and answer report on school bus service from the state's Department of Education states: "State law places the responsibility for a child's safety on the parent until the school bus arrives at the bus stop in the morning, and after the bus leaves the site in the afternoon."
Donald Tudor, the department's director of transportation, said it would be very difficult to consider sex offenders' residences when selecting bus stops. Such a requirement would easily conflict with the state requirements on the distance between bus stops, he said. And other states that have imposed laws requiring sex offenders to live certain distances from bus stops are having problems enforcing them, he said.
There are many registered sex offenders, Tudor said. If South Carolina required that no bus stop be placed within 1,000 feet of the home of a registered sex offender, "in certain little neighborhoods, it would be impossible to have a bus stop."
Type Flourney's suburban ZIP code into the State Law Enforcement Division's registry and you'll get the names of 63 registered sex offenders.
Read more in Sunday's editions of The Post and Courier.