A 2017 Texas law offers money to help children get to and from school safely. No district applied.

The year after 11-year-old Joshua Flores was stabbed to death on his way home from his Near Northside school, the Texas Legislature passed a bill to give school districts extra funding to transportation of children likely to encounter a “high risk of violence”. the way to school.

Four years later, no district in the state has applied for the additional funding under the Joshua Flores Act, according to the Texas Education Agency.

“No district has requested funding for unsafe transportation, as provided by SB 195, 85th Texas Legislature, for students within two miles of a campus where students are at high risk of violence when they walk to and from school,” agency officials wrote in response to a filing. request from the Houston Chronicle.

Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, who introduced the bill in 2016 while serving in the Texas Senate, said she was “really, really disappointed.

“Children are always in danger when they walk to school,” Garcia said last week.

Accounts of students encountering danger while walking between school and home occasionally emerge. A man was arrested last May after allegedly punching a 9-year-old child in the face in an unprovoked attack as the girl was walking home in Montrose, KPRC reported. Last August, a boy was hospitalized after being bitten by a dog in North Harris County while walking home from school, KTRK reported.

Joshua was killed along a seven-block walk from Marshall Middle School after staying late for a party one afternoon six years ago in May. The boy’s death shook the neighborhood and town and inspired the creation of a community group that trains adults to watch children walk home from school.

To date, no one has been convicted in connection with the boy’s death.

A suspect, Andre Jackson, was arrested in 2016 before charges were dropped due to inconclusive DNA evidence and blood tests, prosecutors said at the time.

Three years later, Jackson was charged again after prosecutors said they had newly tested evidence. He is expected to have a trial in mid-February, according to court records.

Garcia’s bill expanded a portion of the Texas education code that provides additional funding to school districts for children who live near their school but may encounter ‘unsafe traffic conditions’ to include risk high in violence.

Excitement among community members following the bill’s passage waned as they tried to apply for the funding and encountered bureaucracy, said Delphina Torres, who has lived in the north since 1966 and had met Joshua on a field trip to his ice cream shop. .

“We were meeting with someone to see if we could create a plan and what we could use the money for and everyone was like, ‘Yeah, that sounds like a great idea. But that’s all it was — it was an idea,” Torres said. “Even though he was adopted, nothing really came of it.”

To receive the funds, a school district’s school board must adopt a policy that “identifies the specific hazardous or high-risk violence areas for which the allocation is requested,” according to the TEA. School systems are supposed to consult with local police and gather records that document the risk of violence.

The agency’s rule outlines how districts are expected to submit data and includes formulas used to calculate additional funding, according to the TEA. The law entered into force in July 2018.

Once a district receives the money, administrators can use it to partially or fully fund community walking programs.

Stella Mireles Walters founded Safe Walk Home in Houston after Joshua’s death. The group trains individuals to keep a watchful eye on children returning from school and how to report suspicious behavior.

Mireles Walters said she tried to access the funds soon after the law took effect, but didn’t get much cooperation from the Houston ISD Department of Transportation. She was supposed to meet with the ministry, she said, but the meeting never happened.

“Here we thought – we were certain – that it would create a safer environment for students walking to school in a high crime area,” said Mireles Walters. “This does not happen.”

That could change.

HISD’s Department of Transportation has assessed where there may be hazardous areas for students within 2 miles of their zoned schools, the district said in a statement.

The district has worked with local authorities to provide relevant data to the board of education, HISD officials said, adding that the district may receive reimbursement from the state. The district plans to unveil the exam for the upcoming school year.

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