Texas School Clashes With Parents Over Bizarre Anti-Pedestrian Pickup Policy

©. Magnolia Independent School Board

Bear Branch Elementary School has instituted an absurd policy that does not allow walkers to leave the school until the car line has finished. It also ripped out the bike rack last fall to discourage cycling.

An elementary school in Texas has infuriated parents by enforcing strange rules surrounding pickup at the end of the day. Holly Ray, the principal at Bear Branch Elementary School in Magnolia, insists that children must either take the bus or be picked up by car, unless their parents come on foot after the car line has finished. Nor can parents drive to the school, park their car, and walk inside to retrieve their child early.

The school issued a statement on April 6, saying that the car line takes only 30 minutes and would allow walkers to be dismissed for pickup by 3:50 p.m., but parents say that the line takes at least an hour, obviously taking a significant chunk out of their day. Video footage of the line shows how it stretches down several nearby roads, inching forward like a depressing funeral cortège. I counted 51 cars, with more lined up in the distance.

Principal Ray, who also tore out the school’s bike rack last September as part of her mission to streamline the pickup procedure, defends the new policy as protecting the children’s safety and ensuring their wellbeing. “The goal is a safe dismissal process.” She is backed by the school board and the local police force, which was called to intervene when an angry parent threatened school staff last fall. Other parents have been issued warnings by the police.

Parent Frank Young said in an interview with Fox 26:

“Mrs. Ray's policy is implying that a parent doesn't have the ability or capability to decide what is safest for her children and that the school district does. I disagree. The most toxic thing that we could do for our kids is not fight for the truth and justice.”

Young says that hundreds of signatures on a petition did nothing to sway the principal or school board to change the policy. As a result, Young has pulled his kids out of school, despite living close by.

Another parent, Wendy Jarman, lives in the neighborhood directly behind the school. It makes far more sense to walk, but when she was forced to get in her vehicle and join the car line, she also chose to withdraw her kids and enroll them elsewhere.

It is ridiculous that such a policy exists in a country where parents and educators lament the chronic unhealthiness and overweight of countless children, when scientists are trying to change the tide of opinion surrounding global warming and environmental activists are encouraging people to find alternative modes of transportation that do not rely on fossil fuels.

Most disturbing, however, is the way in which the ‘state’ (in this case, the school board, principal, and police) is allowed to enforce its skewed version of control-obsessed safety onto parents and children. The fact that the first-ever 'free-range parenting' legislature was signed into existence just a few months ago does not seem to matter in this case, as it cannot override municipal and state restrictions.

The principal is either not aware or does not care that car accidents are the leading cause of death for children between ages one and 19 in North America. She refuses even to adjust the policy to allow walkers to leave prior to the start of the car line, which would be a logical solution and provide encouragement for many parents to leave their cars at home in order to have a speedier, more efficient end to the school day.