MINNEAPOLIS - A growing number of people are concerned about a new program that has Minneapolis high school students riding city buses rather than traditional yellow buses.
The concerns come after a number of students from Patrick Henry High School say they were assaulted. In response, school officials insist the buses are safe.
Phaminxue Yang, 14, and his 15-year-old brother Chwe claim they were waiting for their bus on Emerson Avenue in December when someone else showed up before their bus did.
"He punched me in the face first," said Chwe.
They claim a young man, who they didn't know, allegedly punched both of them and then took off.
"We were kind of surprised, shocked" said Chwe.
But these brothers, who go to Henry High, are not the only ones who have reported problems.
Gary Vang, 16, is at his north side home resting unable to return to school per doctor's orders. He says he was assaulted while walking near his bus stop after school on Penn Avenue back in January by someone he may have known.
"He punched me here. And I fell back," Vang said who thinks he may have been targeted.
Vang, also a Henry High student, says he was knocked unconscious and doesn't remember much. His doctors have kept him out of school this whole week because of it.
The incident prompted his mother to pull him out for good and enroll him in the Hopkins School District.
"One incident is enough already. One incident we should do something to protect it," said Kia Thao.
The metro busing program or the "Go-To" passes are designed to provide students with more flexibility if they need to get to school earlier or stay later.
"In general, it is a tremendously safe system with a minute incident rate," said Robert Johnson, Director of Administrative Operations for MPS.
Johnson says fewer than 10 students have reported problems, but about 90 percent of the students in the district say they like the new busing system. Johnson says it has also saved the district money, but how much he didn't know.
"The incidents that have happened to some Patrick Henry students are not school or transportation safety issues, they're community safety issues," said Johnson.
"Where did it happen should not be a question. It happened," added Mary Maddox.
Maddox has a daughter who goes to Henry and is also the co-chair of the school's parent-community council. She's asking the school to provide more of a presence along the troubled routes.
"I think it should fall on the schools shoulders to solve some of these issues. And let the district figure out the jurisdictional issues," said Maddox.
She says the program has good potential but believes the safety concerns need to be addressed.
Johnson, along with Henry High School officials, Minneapolis Police, and Metro Transit representatives met Tuesday to discuss some of the concerns. Johnson says officials have decided to do more outreach with the community about riding the metro buses.
A spokesperson with Metro Transit tells KARE 11 they increased patrols along the some of the busier routes since the school busing program started this school year. And there is a chance more patrols could be shifted to other problem areas.
Something the Yang brothers like the sound of because they actually enjoy the flexibility of the busing system just not the anxiety they say goes with it.
"The only problem is the safety, that's it," said Phaminxue Yang.
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