ST. LOUIS – Student bus stops will be crowded during the first week of school. That’s because area men will be out chaperoning to help make students’ wait a safe one.
The effort is the brainchild of St. Louis Public Schools safety and security officer Capt. Misty Dobynes. She said that when parents at a recent school board meeting voiced a problem with bus stop safety, she decided to solve it.
The answer that she came up with is St. Louis Neighborhood Net.
The initiative places area men at school bus stops. The idea is to deter violence and other potential dangers, especially in high-crime areas and near vacant buildings and high grass. In turn, she hopes to promote a sense of safety for area students.
“Parents said they don’t like their kids feeling unsafe at the bus stop, and we listened, and now we want to ensure that the kids are safe,” Dobynes, commander of administration, said Wednesday at a training session for volunteers held at Sweetie Pie’s Upper Crust, 3643 Delmar Blvd.
Dobynes has spent 18 years in the district’s Safety and Security Department, seven of them in the Transportation Department. She said the departments performed an evaluation every year.
Some evaluations, she said, have already prompted the moving of some bus stops from areas deemed unsafe for students.
Dobynes reached out to James Clark, vice president of community outreach for Better Family Life, to help recruit men and get the ball rolling. BFL’s street team was in full force at the training session.
Dobynes and Clark also enlisted Laura Ginn, program manager for St. Louis Development Corporation. She will work closely with city departments such as the building and street departments.
Ray Watson, a volunteer who showed up for the training on Wednesday, was adamant about doing his part to keep students safe.
“I don’t want to see any more kids get killed. I want to help protect them,” Watson said.
He went on to say, “These kids are scared – there’s a lot of shooting back and forth going on, and some of those doing the shooting are school age.”
Another volunteer, Eddie Chandlier, who does security for Sweetie Pie’s, echoed Watson.
“It’s so much crime out here. We gotta look out for the kids. Our elders looked out for us. Now, it’s time for us to step up as men for our kids,” Chandlier said.
Volunteers will undergo background checks for sex and violence offenses.
At the bus stops, Ginn said, volunteers with down time are to take notes of dangers such as vacant buildings, caved roofs, high grass and street lamp outages.
Officers from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department will also be on patrol, according to Col. Lisa Taylor, Chief of SLPS Safety and Security. She said a live dispatch would be available for immediate complaints from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The number is (314) 865-2020.
There will also be holdover schools for young students stranded or not picked up at their bus stops by parents.
St. Louis Neighborhood Net goes from the first day of school (Tuesday, Aug. 13) through Friday, Aug. 16.
“It think it should be longer,” Chandlier said.
To that, Clark said, “We will see what our volunteer base looks like and go from there.”
But that first week, Clark said, a strong message will be sent and children will have a safety net.