United, Parents Win!
For the past three years, a group of Somali families relied on the Portland Public School bus system to transport their children from their apartment complex on Powell and 92nd to Harrison Park Middle School. All of a sudden, with no notice from the school, the bus stopped servicing their address. Faced with a language barrier and the inability to drive, these families walked a mile on an extremely busy street every single day with no complaints, facing Islamophobic drivers cussing, honking, and sometimes throwing objects at them.
One day, a Somali mother of a five and a six year old walked to pick her children up from their usual bus stop, but she could not find them. Unite Oregon’s parent advocate Suad Elmi assisted the family in their search, and was made aware that there was no longer bus service available. Thankfully, they found the children who had begun walking home on their own. Their mother was so disheartened about her young children, constantly worrying about their safety while walking to and from school.
Suad immediately requested a meeting with the Portland Public School Transportation Department. Three weeks later, two representatives from the transportation department, Harrison Park’s principal John Walden, some of the parents affected, and Suad met to discuss the issue. School officials took no responsibility for the bus service stopping abruptly at their complex and presented no solution for the families affected. Determined to help, Unite Oregon’s team organized these parents and taught them how to advocate for their needs, helping them to request a board hearing. The Somali families gave such strong testimony. The board and attendees were moved. Their voices were heard, and a week later their apartment complex was put back on the school bus route.