Kids should be safe getting to and from school, but several Minneapolis high school students say they have been robbed and seriously injured at city bus stops on their way to class.
The reports are emerging now that the district is phasing out yellow school buses by giving students passes to use Metro Transit, but some parents are now threatening to pull their children out of the district because their children have been so traumatized by the switch.
According to the Minneapolis Public Schools' district spokesman, students have already taken 1 million rides on Metro Transit busses so far this year. Of those trips, 12 serious incidents have been reported.
FOX 9 News spoke to one of the victims who said he is still recovering from an assault that may have altered the course of his entire life.
"It's like losing your identity," he said.
The victim, who wished to remain anonymous out of safety concerns, was assaulted by two men while he waited for his bus to arrive at the intersection Oak Park and Penn avenues in north Minneapolis in January.
"I was waiting there for probably 15 minutes and it was starting to get dark and cold," he recalled. "I started walking home, and that's where everything happened."
He had just left Patrick Henry High School, which is one of many in the district that traded yellow school buses for the Go to Pass program debuted last fall. The free passes and allows students to ride any time during the week between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Now, however, he and his mother worry that he may not get where he had ultimately hoped to go due to the concussion he suffered that night and the memory loss problems that followed.
"It really hurt me on the inside," the victim's mother told FOX 9 News. "He wanted to be a dentist and I'm really afraid he may not be able to achieve his goal."
Though the teen now attends a high school outside of the district that uses traditional school buses, he is still feeling the effects because he struggled to learn after the attack.
"I couldn't absorb anything the teacher was saying to me," he said. "I couldn't focus in class and it was so hard to concentrate."
On Tuesday, parents gathered at the Educational Services Center to demand a return to the yellow buses, but the district said it is proud of the Go to Pass progress so far.
"When you look at a million rides and 12 significant incidents, we're doing really well," said Stan Alleyne.
Yet, the mother of another boy who was assaulted after leaving Patrick Henry High School while waiting for a Metro Transit bus said the transition left her son traumatized, and she is worried about safety.
"Does someone need to die before something gets done?" Tracy Knightingale asked. "My son was threatened with a gun. He could have died."
Knightingale's son wasn't seriously hurt and still attends the school, but parents still worry -- even after the district implemented a ridership safety class.
Meanwhile, a student who is once an honor student told FOX 9 News he is now altering his life plan.
"I'm slow. I can't live up to my transcript anymore," the assault victim said. "I know it's going to save them lots of bucks, but why wouldn't you go the extra mile to help your students' safety?"
District officials say the Go to Pass program isn't going anywhere any time soon. In fact, the two remaining high schools that aren't already involved -- South and Southwest high schools -- will convert to Metro Transit buses next school year.