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Bus-barriers to education

BY EMILY INMAN | JANUARY 23, 2012 7:20 AM

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The attainment of a quality education brings with it a diverse number of opportunities for the future: jobs, entrepreneurship, economic competitiveness, and success, among many others. Very often, however, minority students and students from low-income homes encounter barriers to education. The majority of these obstacles are brought on by outside and uncontrollable circumstances. Recently, an impediment faced by these students living in Iowa City has been brought to public light: a transportation barrier.

Though it may seem trivial, modes of transportation, or lack thereof, to and from school can have a significant effect on the daily lives of minority students and students from low-income homes living in Iowa City.

Students living in Iowa City are bused to and from school via a hub area outside the Old Capitol Town Center. This is used instead of numerous corner street stops in students' neighborhoods. Students must take city buses to the Old Capitol mall hub, get off, wait for another bus, then board the bus for school. After school, students are forced to wait at the mall for city buses that they travel to destinations closer to their homes.

Because many Iowa City buses only leave once an hour or half hour, many students have to wait at the mall for long periods of time. During the colder months, these students find refuge inside the mall. But some people aren't pleased with their presence in and around the mall. Recent complaints have been made to police regarding what has been described as unruly and troublesome behavior from these students at the hub.

These complaints, whether warranted or fallacious, spark an important query regarding the mindset of the Iowa City School District. It's not logical for students who attend schools on the East Side of town to be bused westward to downtown, just for them to have to take a city bus back east. The bus-ride time coupled with the wait between transfers takes valuable time away from students. If a city bus heading downtown is missed by a student, a day of school may be missed as well, because some city buses only run once or twice an hour. Again, the same goes for traveling back home, except that some city buses stop running after 6 p.m. Many students from low-income homes have no other mode of transportation besides the bus. If extracurricular activities or after-school jobs go past 6 p.m., students are stuck downtown and are faced with having to pay high fares for cab rides, or they are saddened by the inability to participate in such activities.

These factors can lead to tardiness, missed school days, little participation, and lower grades. This, in turn, translates into a barrier to education. Barriers to education are an everyday occurrence for minorities and students from low-income homes across the country. These barriers stem from structural violence: the framework of laws, poverty, inequalities, and forces of politics that shape the way in which people are allowed to live their lives and how they fall into the classifications of the hunted or the hunter. For the hunters, those who do not know what it is like to live in the scrapyards of human existence, structural violence is a silent woe that hides in the oblivion. But for the hunted, structural violence is an everyday battle that has no end.

The Iowa City School District, along with the City Council, has created structural violence toward minorities and students from low-income homes. The City Council has shown no interest in combating this structural violence. This was evident when City Councilor Jim Throgmorton told The Daily Iowan that the council won't even address the bus issue until a "broader community response" is shown.

But a "broader community response" shouldn't have to be the resolution to a barrier to education. The attainment of education at an equal level with students' peers is a human right and a right that should be respected by the School District and City Council.


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