Florida’s Hazardous Walking Conditions Statute (Section 1006.23), the law that defines hazardous walking conditions for public school students, poses as a criteria for determining whether a walking route to and from school is hazardous for public school students, but it neither safeguards public school students who reside within a reasonable walking distance of school nor encourages infrastructure development and improvement that would make walking to and from school safe for students.
Throughout the state, school districts transport students around conditions that the state doesn’t consider hazardous. The state logs those students as “ineligible” transported students and provides school districts no funding support to transport them safely like it does other students.
That means that Florida school districts spend a lot of money to buy school buses, hire drivers, and fund internal operating expenses to transport children who face these hazards between home and school rather than reserve those funds for educating kids in the classroom.
Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition recently announced that Florida is the worst state in the nation for pedestrian safety and that Florida has a Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) that is more than 3 times the national average. So, the decisions that school districts like ours make to transport those students even without a state funding contribution has kept kids alive. What other choice is there? The question is why, in spite of the existence of a statute in the Education Code that deals specifically with hazardous walking conditions for students, are Florida school districts left in that position?
It’s well past time for the Florida legislature to protect children who encounter hazardous walking conditions between home and school by adopting a reasonable and responsible improvement to the hazardous walking conditions statute during the upcoming legislative session.