For the late Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis, the location of the school bus stop on Beavercreek Road in Oregon City, Ore., horrifically demonstrates what can happen when kids walk to and from their school bus stop with no adult supervision.
The press reported that 12-year-old Ashley was last seen walking to her school bus stop on Jan. 9, 2002, and Miranda, 13, had breakfast in her kitchen on March 8, before leaving for the same bus stop.
Eleven sex offenders lived within two miles of the bus stop. In the end, Ward Weaver, 39, a neighbor living near the bus stop and not a registered sex offender, has been charged with these crimes.
In the Oregon City incidents, a child predator did more than destroy two precious young lives. He terrorized an apartment complex and destroyed a small sub-communityÕs sanctuary.
Adult supervision is necessary
There are up to 4,600 stranger abductions per year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. "It takes five seconds for an abductor to take a child into a car and be out of the area," says Ken Wooden, founder of Child Lures Prevention (http://childlures.org), a Shelburne, Vt.-based organization aimed at preventing crimes against children.
Last May, a 26-year-old mother in Tacoma, Wash., thwarted the attempted kidnap of her 6-year-old daughter. The attempt happened after the kindergartner was let off her school bus near her home. "The child's mother said she grabbed her daughter's feet as the man tried to pull the girl into his car. She said the man finally let go and drove off," reported WISC-TV 3 in Madison, Wis. Fortunately, in this situation, there was a responsible adult waiting for the child.
Are some things predictable? What would likely have happened had that 6-year-old left the bus without a responsible adult there to help keep her safe?
According to KATU news in Portland, Ore., "One study of 621 stranger abductions ending in murder showed that 44 percent of the children were killed within the first hour after they were abducted. By the third hour, it was 74 percent, and within 24 hours, 91 percent."
Teach kids safety skills
Kids dropped at their bus stop in full daylight remain at risk, even when an adult is nearby to receive the child. Parents and schools alike rely on the "buddy system," thinking this will keep kids safe. Children, parents and schools feel safer when kids travel in pairs. But this is a weak protective strategy, especially when predators have become so bold as to grab kids in full daylight.
Parents and schools must decide together to take better care of the kids, including training kids on what to do when an abduction attempt occurs — scream, bite, kick and run! An adult supervised safety link from home to school and from school home is also needed.
Predators must not be the only ones watching over kids walking to and from their school bus stops.
RESOURCES ON THE NET
2Safeschools.org — Provides information to parents, school staff and other adults on making the school environment safer. It includes articles on school transportation issues, editorials by author James Kraemer, surveys, polls and more.
Child Lures Prevention
http://childlures.org/parents/tips.asp — Offers resources for parents, educators and children to prevent sexual exploitation, abduction, Internet crime, drug use and school violence.
Walking School Bus
www.walkingschoolbus.org/ — Hosted by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center and maintained by International Walk to School Day, this site offers links to dozens of Websites on walking school bus programs worldwide.
James Kraemer is a veteran school bus driver and founder of 2safeschools.org. He can be reached at [email protected]