ATLANTA – Parents of two Atlanta Public Schools students are fuming after their daughters were accosted by local transit police and forced into a “truancy van” on their way to school.
Twins Carrie and Colleen Miller attend Grady High School, about 2.5 miles from their house, and the girls and a friend decided to walk to school last Wednesday when a substitute bus driver failed to pick them up, WXIA reports.
When the group was about 50 yards from the school, they were approached by police officers with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Colleen Miller told the news site.
“We were just walking and we see a parked MARTA van, and then a MARTA police stops and two men come out. They said, ‘Can you get in the van?’ And we were like ‘Why?’ but they wouldn’t tell us,” she said.
The Miller girls, who are daughters of a WXIA employee, recorded part of the encounter.
“They were forcing us to get in the van, it was more like, ‘Get into the van!’ And we were so confused,” Carrie Miller said.
The girls’ father, Mark Miller, said that forcing the teens into a van without explanation goes against everything parents teach their children about strangers and safety.
“I was upset because I knew my girls were frightened,” he said. “They know not to get into a van even if it’s a MARTA van. We do we know they’re truly MARTA police? Especially when they’re right at school, and they didn’t need to get into a van anyway.”
Carrie Miller said the officers did little to ease their concerns.
“We were so confused,” she said. “Why are there two men not explaining? Why is it MARTA? We kept questioning them and they would never give us full answers. They were very vague and I was very scared that something bad would happen because you hear those stories every day.”
The girls were eventually hauled the last 50 yards to school in the van.
Atlanta Public Schools officials released a statement explaining its truancy policy, which few parents are aware of, WXIA reports.
According to the statement:
Atlanta Public Schools works collaboratively with the Atlanta Police Department and MARTA Police Department year-round to conduct truancy sweeps within our school zone. The APS Truancy Office protocol states that ‘APD Truancy Officers and MARTA Police Officers are to transport students to the APS Truancy Center or their APS school from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in accordance with the city ordinance.’
The Atlanta City Ordinance states that students are supposed to be in school during school hours, unless they have a valid excuse. The MARTA police officers clearly identified themselves to the students before transporting them in a MARTA Police truancy vehicle back to school. The school bus driver, who was a substitute driver, missed their bus stop. The students who returned to school were not considered “truant” since they were on their way to school. They were instead classified as “late to school.”
Mark Miller told WXIA the family’s new policy is to return home if the bus doesn’t come, and to call an adult for a ride.
The situation, of course, sparked outrage by parents online.
“1. They shouldn’t even be classified as late as it as the bus driver who missed their stop. 2. They certainly deserved an explanation of why they were expected to get in the van. I don’t think I’d be willing to get in the van either,” Becky Fly posted to Facebook. “They could have just watched the girls finish the walk to school and make sure they got there since they were close and clearly uncomfortable with the situation.”
“If they were only 50 yards away and walking towards the door there is absolutely zero reason for them to be stopped at the worst since they were so close to the school they should have waited to see what the girls were doing,” Shane Huckeba wrote. “What idiots.”
“OMG. Can’t imagine what Carrie and Colleen were thinking and feeling during this,” Lu Ann Phillips added. “Not being funny here, but the only thing missing was a puppy or kitten to help lure them into the van. So glad they are OK.”
“Sounds like kidnapping,” Chris Lett posted.