Updated: 03/18/2013 3:11 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Saxenmeyer
Concern continues to grow about the safety of students taking public transportation to Henry High School in North Minneapolis.
A student says he was followed after getting off a Metro Transit bus, and then attacked and robbed.
Traditional yellow school buses were phased out at Henry this semester. Only South and Southwest High School students are still taking regular buses, along with all non-high school students in Minneapolis.
This latest assault is the third confirmed case being investigated by police in the last two months.
Some officials say since the attacks didn't occur on the buses, it's more of a community crime problem.
But others say they're a sign the district has made a dangerous mistake by switching kids to public transportation.
"They said, 'Stay still or we'll kill you'," a Henry High School senior told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Friday. He filed a police report after he was attacked on Wednesday. Because his assailants haven't been caught, he and his family are still concerned for his safety, and they asked 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS not to identify them.
"They said, 'We'll shoot you. Give us your stuff," the teen continued.
"They're just open targets, all of our kids," said the teen's mother.
On Wednesday, the teen was returning home from Henry on Metro Transit Route 19, when he says two young men get off at the same stop and attacked him, two blocks away at 23rd and Russell. "They tried to drag me away," he said. "Then they started punching and kicking me. They ended up stealing my iPod."
The attack follows another incident reported to police about a mid-January incident at 26th and Emerson. Two Henry High School boys said they were punched in the face by a young man while waiting at a Metro Transit bus to take them to school.
And in late January, another Henry student says he suffered a concussion after two young men attacked him at the corner of Oak Park and Penn. He had just walked his girlfriend home after they rode Metro Transit home from school.
Mary Mooney is a nine-year member of Henry High School's shared leadership or "Site Council." She's a also a lawyer and a parent of two now-grown Henry students."Take responsibility school district!" she said during a Friday interview. "Because this is your idea and you have the responsibility of getting kids to and from school in a same manner."
She continued, "When these kids were riding a yellow school bus, the only people being picked up and dropped off at those stops were other Henry kids. You can control who's on a yellow school bus. You can't on an MTC bus. I just don't think it's a safe situation."
The student who was attacked Wednesday agreed, "The new policy was a bad policy to begin with," he said. On the MTC buses, "it could be anyone on there and that's the scary part about it. You have no idea whether they're from professional backgrounds or have no job at all and are desperate for money."
In response to the problems, Minneapolis School Board member Kim Ellison told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the district is about to put what it calls "transportation safety managers" on some Metro Transit routes, and at stops, where concerns have grown. She said police have agreed to increase their presence in the problem areas, and that Metro Transit will be providing ridership safety and awareness classes for students.
The student who was attacked Wednesday, however, says he's done with the MTC. His mother plans to drive him to Henry for the remainder of his senior year. "I refuse to put him back on the bus," she said. "They should have never stopped the yellow buses. I honestly do not believe this would have happened on a yellow bus. It doesn't seem to me like the Minneapolis School District is really concerned about the safety of their kids."
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org