In Pursuit of a Clean Ride for Kids: Q&A with Tyrese Robinson, Maryland Mother and Educator

Jan 12, 2018

Johana Vicente, Chispa MD, & Betsy Lopez-Wagner, LCV's Chispa

Maryland resident Tyrese Robinson is a special education teacher and mother of four. Chispa Maryland, a community organizing program of MDLCV, run in coordination with LCV, sat down with her to talk about diesel emissions and the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign – an initiative urging governors across the country to use Volkswagen (VW) settlement dollars for clean electric school bus fleets.

Tyrese Robinson stands in front of a diesel school bus in Maryland. Photo credit: Matt Roth for LCV

Chispa Maryland: What are your concerns with diesel school bus emissions, as an educator and parent?
Tyrese Robinson: As a special education teacher here in Prince George’s County, Maryland, I know firsthand that many of our children, particularly and disproportionately those of color, who are riding the buses, generally have to be on the bus for an extended amount of time. This doesn’t include the time that the bus is idling outside of the school during pick-up and drop-off.

Our children are literally packed into a box on these school buses where they are exposed to different kinds of harmful emissions which can trigger asthma, bronchitis and different allergies – or worse.

Chispa Maryland: Why are you so concerned about diesel emissions from school buses?
Tyrese Robinson: I have a daughter that was diagnosed with asthma within the last year and her asthma is very severe, landing her last year in the hospital on three separate occasions. And so as a parent, it’s important for me to be informed as to what her triggers are, so that I can try to alleviate them as best as possible. Diesel-powered school buses are one of them.

Chispa Maryland: Does she ride the bus to school?
Tyrese Robinson: She previously rode the school buses and I subsequently took her off of the school buses and had to look into private transportation for her.

Chispa Maryland: Why did you make that decision of switching her to private transportation?
Tyrese Robinson: Private transportation offered me a better quality of care with my children so that I can be more cognizant of their environments. Not only because of the emissions, but even just being on the school bus for two hours, that’s a really long time. And you couple that with the health concerns on top of that, and that’s just a recipe for disaster, especially for children who suffer with severe allergies and asthma as well.

Let’s save money for our communities, put this money back into our public schools, and ultimately give our children a healthy environment so they can learn and grow without worrying about these respiratory illnesses.

Tyrese Robinson with Chispa staff. Photo by Matt Roth