DOVER, Fla. (WFLA) – Karla Capitano is angry and wants answers. She says she’s ready to go to battle for her son when it comes to bus safety, or lack thereof, she maintains, near her Dover home.
Karla admits she’s a mama bear when it comes to matters involving her children. In fact, her inner bear is ready to come out and make an appearance.
“Oh yes, very much,” she smiled, as she shared her story with 8 on Your Side. “When it comes to my children, yes. Very much.”
There’s no doubt Karla is ready to fight for the rights of children in her neighborhood, her 13-year-old son Kaleb Safie, in particular, who attends Mulrennen Middle School in nearby Valrico.
The campus is located roughly 1.7 miles from her Dover home.
This mom wants to know one thing.
Why does her 7th grader have to walk nearly two miles in what she describes as “dangerous, hazardous conditions,” on his way to middle school in Hillsborough County?
“He’s only 13,” she told us. “I’m worried he’s going to get killed. People don’t pay any attention to that four-way stop. They go right through it. They could kill my son.”
Karla says there are no safety measures in place. No crossing guards. No crosswalks. No safety. No one watching out for the children, she claims.
“I’m scared, I’m extremely worried. I’m concerned,” she told 8 on Your Side Wednesday evening. This mother-of-four says she keeps asking questions and cannot get answers.
She and her husband, Mike, want things to change.
“They have to,” she said. “I’m afraid someone is going to hit my son or other kids in this neighborhood. I’m very concerned for the safety of him, not only him, but also other kids who come into this neighborhood next door.”
Enough is enough, she told 8 on Your Side.
Kaleb’s parents were shocked when they were told their son had to walk the path in one of the busiest areas of Hillsborough County. “He’s at risk, he could be run over at any time,” she said.
When Karla called and emailed school leaders at Mulrennen Middle and the Hillsborough School District, she says she got no response.
That’s when she called 8 on Your Side. She says she’s glad she did.
“It was a very pleasant experience, and you guys were out here in no time to do the story,” she told us.
Turns out, the rule regarding bus transportation comes from the state, not the county. State law requires school districts to “provide transportation to students who reside two (2) or more miles from their assigned school.”
According to Florida statutes, the state provides transportation funding for those students only, who live more than two miles from campus.
Hillsborough school leaders admit they’re extremely frustrated with the situation, since so many parents call the superintendent and school board angry and searching for answers.
The solution, as it turns out, is in the hands of state lawmakers, not the county.
In fact, a Hillsborough County school spokesperson told 8 on Your Side they would love to see changes made. But, those changes would have to come from the state.
School spokesperson, Tanya Arja, told 8 on Your Side:
“Our district agrees with parents that language in the state statute needs to be revisited and updated to today’s pedestrian safety standards. The guidelines in the Florida Statute are all we have to work with right now. Student safety is our priority and we will continue to work with our lawmakers to encourage changes.”