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  • Jul 11, 2014
  • Updated: 7:03pm
NewsHong Kong

Parent launches legal action over school's ban on dropping off students

Disgruntled expat says daughter faces four-hour round trip in absence of school bus in their area

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 August, 2013, 9:00am

The Hong Kong International School (HKIS) has been threatened with legal action over its new mandatory busing policy, which one parent says amounts to "blackmail".

Since last week, students at the HKIS Repulse Bay campus have been required to use the school's bus service to commute to and from the premises. Students living nearby are allowed to walk to school, but all others have to take the bus and pay for it.

However, Thomas Hebestreit, a German expatriate businessman whose six-year-old daughter attends the school — has refused to participate in the scheme and has begun legal proceedings against the school for what he views as an infringement of his family's civil liberties.

"I came here [to HKIS] because of the spirit of America. The spirit of America is freedom, the spirit of America is democracy. You guys work like North Koreans," Hebestreit said, addressing school officials.

Although repeatedly expressing their desire to reach a solution amenable to both parties, the officials said Hebestreit's daughter would not be allowed into the school if delivered by private car.

"We're willing to work with you. We're willing to see what can be done with the routes that we have … but there are parameters to what we can do," said HKIS lower primary principal Maya Nelson. "At this point, if people are not walkers or bus riders, they cannot come to our school."

Hebestreit, a resident of Clear Water Bay, initially became disgruntled with the policy after realising that the school's buses would not serve that area.

"It's not only that I get forced to use a bus, but also that there is no bus," he said. "This is like something you see in a comedy … [I thought] it must be a joke."

The school recommended that he drop off his daughter at a satellite bus stop in Central, but Hebestreit said that would significantly increase the time his daughter took to get to school.

He said the school is "blackmailing" parents by using admission into the bus scheme as a prerequisite for studying there.

A statement on the HKIS website says that if parents do not comply, their children's enrolment may be "jeopardised".

Hebestreit's daughter has not attended school since the new academic term began last week.

Hebestreit initiated legal proceedings last week after talks between him and the school stalled.

"HKIS has unilaterally imposed this new policy upon children living in the Clear Water Bay [and] Sai Kung areas, and without providing any school bus service from these areas," said Patrick Rattigan, Hebestreit's solicitor.

"This is unreasonable, unjustifiable and above all damaging to the interests of young children who live in these areas, who will now be forced to spend four hours a day in traffic."

School official Maziar Sabet denied the return journey would take four hours, an estimate he said was "beyond facts".

The school said the policy was to ensure the safety of students and ease traffic congestion, which local residents have complained about.


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This article is now closed to comments

The school should provide bus services for all students if they are trying to force them to take it... It makes no sense to force the kids to take a bus to school but not offer services to certain parts of the city...
Another thing is.. These people who live close to the school complaining that they are inconvenienced by cars and taxis dropping and picking up students.. Most of them probably moved to where they are living knowing full well that the traffic is bad around the school... They want to live there because it's close to the school.. Well wake up.. you just have to take the good with the bad.. If you don't like the traffic, move away to somewhere else...
Herr Hebestreit , does your daughter not have legs?
Is she does, perhaps she should be taught how to use them.
I thought students were admitted on academic prowess. I didn't know a criteria included them being walkers or bus riders. Is this made clear in the school's mission statement or whatever charter? If buses are mandatory, the school should make them accessible to students from wherever. If not, it is unreasonable to enforce this requirement.
Marie Lim : is this your skool ?
Who gave the school the right to deny enrolled students the right to study based on which mode of transport they are using? What is the difference between students who are living nearby walking to school and students living far away being dropped off nearby and walking to school? I hope Mr. Hebestreit wins his law suit, that's just ridiculous behavior on the school's side.
HKIS is trying to be a responsible part of the community. It is a shame this person doesn't share the school's values and should look elsewhere.
wow, surprised so many comments pro-HKIS new school bus policy.
imposing a mandatory bus requirement is draconian and unnecessary. HKIS can designate no drop zone at the school, but parents should be able to drop kids outside the school area and they can walk in. Why only kids in the area can be allow to walk to school?
to relieve congestion, HKIS can designate a shuttle stop very close to the school where parents can drop off the kids, and run a short shuttle service to/fro. This eliminates the cars issue, but doesn't force everyone to have to take the bus service, not a cheap option.
They do because they can.
my suggestion
the gentleman is CEO of a large garments company
buy an 11 seater school bus
use it for your company during school hours and to deliver the daughter to and from school
Hong Kong's pollution has become so bad that we are told that many expats and experts are leaving our city because of the pollution. It's a fair assumption that many of the parents of HKIS have complained about the air pollution in HK as well.
Here is now your chance to do something to fight the pollution by not using 25-40 private cars for students who can use 1 single bus. Oh, my apologies, I must have overlooked that fighting air pollution shall certainly not be done in your backyard or cause any sort of inconvenience. Well, I am very happy that my children can go to school by bus (not HKIS).
The question here is not the bus-only policy. The main question is why the school does not provide a bus service for the areas in question !
And for Mr. Hebestreit: why don't you bring your daughter to the same bus any 6-year old coming from Discovery Bay takes at the ferry terminal when going to HKIS. Your daughter wouldn't have a longer way to Central than any kid from DB attending a school on Hong Kong island or Kowloon side.
Or the other alternative: look for another school.
By the way, show my a school bus system in Germany that matches HK . And in Germany hardly any parent drives the kids to school or has a maid . Too long in HK - too spoilt ?
"Or the other alternative: look for another school. By the way, show my a school bus system in Germany that matches HK . And in Germany hardly any parent drives the kids to school or has a maid . Too long in HK - too spoilt ?" Beautiful




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