Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Answer Line: Plenty of places to walk or run early mornings

Nov. 29, 2017 at 10:11 p.m.

QUESTION: Are there safe places to walk or run mornings? I leave work about 5:30 or 6 a.m. and it's still dark. Do schools allow people to use the track and field area?

ANSWER: I'm going to tell you about some school tracks, but make sure to keep reading because I have some great information from Longview police Sgt. Shane McCarter, too.

Each school has its own track use policy, so you'd have to check with the specific school.

Pine Tree's Auxiliary Stadium track on Pine Tree Road is open 6:30 a.m. to dark Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to dark Saturdays and Sundays.

Hallsville's is available to people who want to walk or run between 5:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. as long as school is not in session and no athletic teams or school event is using the track. The district asks that you leave everything as you found it, and trash, gum, sunflower seeds, Gatorade, etc. are not allowed.

The track around the stadium at Longview High School also is open to the public. The district asks that, during school hours, people park on the visitor side and use the small gate by the scoreboard. Strollers, sledges, glass bottles, pets other than service animals, smoking and alcohol are not allowed.

You might consider the city's walking trails. There are quite a few, but Answer Line's favorite is the Paul G. Boorman Trail.

McCarter said the trails are safe, but, "We should never take our surroundings for granted." (The trails are closed between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Find information at longviewtexas.gov/3336/Walking-Trails.)

"Obviously early morning before sunrise and later in the evening pose visibility problems, and safety should always be considered especially if running or walking alone," he said.

It's best — and more enjoyable — to take a partner, he said, but if that's not possible carry a phone.

"If it is dark, your sight is limited, and walking or running with headphones further limits your sense of hearing," he said.

Try to stay in areas that have plenty of light. Carrying a personal safety spray can help with animals and give a person an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and a potential attacker. Always let someone else know where you are going and when to expect your return. That person should know to start looking if you're not back, and be prepared to call police.

McCarter also suggested the new George Richey Road section that just opened as an option because it is fairly open, has sidewalks and lighting at intersections. Your neighborhood should be pretty safe as well, because you know the people who are supposed to be there and areas to avoid, he said.

Q: I have a child who was suspended from the bus for "making a false allegation" toward a bus driver. She is 10. She stated that the bus driver hit her arm. When asked about it, the individual over the buses said that according to the video, it didn't happen, and my child was suspended for five days. That is not in accordance with their own stated policy. I asked to see the video as well so I could correct my child if necessary. I was informed that in order to protect the privacy of the other children, I would not be allowed to view it. Is there such a law or rule protecting the privacy of children on the bus? Who can I contact to further investigate the matter? Are there organizations that will offer legal assistance pro bono if it is warranted?

A: Answer Line cannot offer legal advice, but I can give you some avenues to explore. First, make sure you have reviewed the appeal options in your school district's Code of Student conduct. You also might find helpful information in the state's education code, which you can view online at bit.ly/2BvMXhE.

You might have another avenue of complaint regarding the district's decision about the video. The U.S. Department of Education administers what's known as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It hasn't issued specific guidance about school bus videos. However, a web site about the law says it "provides that an educational entity that receives Department of Education (Department) funds may not have a policy or practice of denying parents right to inspect and review education records within 45 days of a request." The website says "education records" include "transcripts, class lists, student course schedules, health records (at the K-12 level), student financial information (at the postsecondary level), and student discipline files. The information may be recorded in any way, including, but not limited to, handwriting, print, computer media, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, and e-mail."

You might find information and file an online complaint at studentprivacy.ed.gov.

Finally, there is at least one local nonprofit organization that provides free legal assistance, with income and case restrictions. For information, visit lonestarlegal.org or call (903) 758-9123.

— Answer Line appears Thursday and Saturday. Email questions to answerline@news-journal.com, leave a message at (903) 232-7208 or write to P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.



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