With a rash of suspicious character cases in the Wichita area this school year, many parents are feeling uneasy about the safety of their kids. Every day, at 5,000 bus stops across Wichita, children wait outside. Many times they are alone, and within direct view of a child molester, and with nearly 400 registered sex offenders in Wichita, there's no question one will live near a bus stop; but how close is too close to your child?
KAKE News obtained lists of all of the current USD 259 bus stops and registered sex offenders. Within just a few hours, we were able to come up with several bus stop locations that have a sex predator living very close; often just 20 or 30 yards away.
At McCormick and Bonn, a man convicted of indecent liberties with a child lives in an apartment complex just two houses down from where a little girl waits on the corner every day for the bus. Across town, another man convicted of attempted indecent liberties with a child lives just houses away from a bus stop at 20th and North Park Place. So who is responsible for making sure your kids are safe while they wait for a ride to school?
A transportation supervisor for USD 259 says parents and the schools are responsible. But school officials say with the number of students involved in the bussing program, it is difficult to keep track of sex predators near every student.
While USD 259 is not legally responsible for dealing with the presence of sexual offenders, they educate students on the dangers, so children will at least know how to react if a sex predator does approach them.
As a parent, school officials say the best way to protect your child is to have someone from the family, either an adult or older sibling, be at the bus stop with the student. If you discover your child's bus stop is too close to a sex offender, you can notify your child's school and request the route be changed.
Also, experts say you should encourage your children to communicate what's going on at the bus stop, and talk to them when there are news stories about sex offenders approaching children. This helps children feel comfortable telling adults about potential predators.
Of course, the best way to prevent problems at the bus stop is to be there, waiting with your child.