Critics of Oak Ridge Schools’ expanded parent responsibility zone protested Thursday morning at the intersection of Oak Ridge Turnpike and Illinois Avenue.
Laurie Paine, who lost her daughter, Ashley, at the intersection in 2007, joined almost 15 other parents and community members to rally for change.
“I don’t want anyone to go through what my family went through,” Paine said. She started a Facebook page to unite community members who were against the walk zone and used that website to spread the word of the protest.
Robertsville Middle School parent Kathie Creasey became emotional at the protest, saying that her own son was close to Ashley. She was protesting because she doesn’t want anything bad to happen to her kids.
Oak Ridge City Council member Trina Baughn also attended the protest to show support for Paine. She said the school board needs to prioritize their budget.
“If you provide one service to one student, you need to provide it to all students,” Baughn said. “They have the funds and they have the means to do that.”
The school district announced last week that bus services would not be available to students who live within 1.5 miles of an Oak Ridge school. At first, that distance was “as the crow flies,” but it was changed to actual walking distance on Wednesday.
Daniel Morgan, who created a petition against the walk zone, said that his children wouldn’t have to walk to their schools after the change was made, but he is still working to bring the services to other families.
“There’s still too many kids that can’t ride the bus,” Morgan said. “They can’t speak for themselves, or choose not to, so we choose to speak for them.”
Paine said she felt that the Oak Ridge Board of Education hoped Wednesday’s change would satisfy parents. The change was a “positive step,” but she hopes transportation services can be reinstated for all students.
“We’re not going away,” she said.
Many of the parents in attendance referenced the Paine family’s loss, and the protest was actually staged directly in front of a statue memorializing the accident.
Sara Wise is a freelance contributor to Oak Ridge Today.