MAGNOLIA, Texas (FOX 26) - Some parents in the Magnolia Independent School District say their elementary school is violating federal law by stopping them from walking their children home from school. Mothers who were recently threatened with trespassing charges told the school board on Monday night that they expect the district to make immediate changes.
"My parental rights are being violated," Heather Burke told Magnolia ISD trustees on Monday night. "The district is saying that they have authority over my children."
"I am requesting the freedom, which is my parental right, to walk my children home from school at the time of dismissal," said Lindsey Simmons, who was next to appear at the podium.
Burke and Simmons live 0.2 and 0.1 miles from the school, respectively, but after they walked their children home from school on March 30, a Montgomery County constable delivered a legal warning to their home.
"The constable explained that if I attempted to walk my children home from Bear Branch Elementary again, I could be arrested for criminal trespassing," Burke told trustees.
The mothers made it clear that they have consulted an attorney and they feel Bear Branch Elementary School is breaking federal law.
"Section 8542 of the Every Student Succeeds Act clearly states the school can not prohibit a child from traveling to and from school on foot, car, bus, or bike, when the parents of the child have given permission," Burke said.
"I think that everybody is overreacting," says FOX 26 senior legal analyst Chris Tritico. He says both sides of the issue have dug in their heels, when something could have been worked out long ago.
Tritico believes the school could perhaps dismiss children all at the same time, from different doors at the school, but strictly speaking, he says, the school may not be violating federal law.
"The school district's defense is, 'Your child can walk home. You can come and pick your child up, and you can walk your child home, you just have to wait until we've gotten all the car riders out,'" says Tritico.
FOX 26 News has been seeking the district's response to Burke and Simmons' allegations since Monday night. At the time of our newscast, no spokesperson has provided a response.
"The appeal I make to you, the board, is to help put an immediate stop to this snowball that is moving down a mountain," said Burke at the end of her comments.
The parents want the school board to intervene, and it could if it wanted to, of course. One possible action would be to set some goals for a district-wide dismissal policy, and task the administration with writing a policy that they could then vote on. But it remains to be seen if the board will take any action at all.