If, however, the school system verbally promised families of magnet-school children that they will be provided transportation within reasonable distance of the school, that is technically a contract, Slutzky said.

Woods said he is upset that the new rules only hurt students, teachers and families.

"I do feel personally that some of these decisions from the school board were based purely on political reasons," Woods said. "I hope we can get beyond that."

Many parents told the officials that their students attend magnet programs and they have to wait in distant or unsafe locations.

They also said many schools kick students out of the building at closing time, leaving them exposed outside or waiting at a library, where parents sometimes get calls from police if the library closes early.

Tiffaney Evans was one of several parents from the Forest Oaks neighborhood in Edgewood.

Evans said she specifically checked to make sure her child would not have to walk to school when she bought her house.

She also said 11 registered sex offenders live within walking distance of the school.

Evans thought the "pay-to-play" concept especially affects children.

"Everything is going up except for our income, and our children shouldn't have to pay for that, not in the education system," she said.

Mark Dillon, of Forest Hill, said his daughter would have to walk five or six miles, past the Harford County Detention Center, with no sidewalks, to get to her designated depot stop to wait for a bus to be taken to the magnet program.

The bus routes changes "was first and foremost a breach of contract. We were told our children would be provided transportation," Dillon said.

With very little notice, "as parents, we had no time to react whatsoever," he said.

"The kids are stressed because they don't know how they are going to get home," he said, adding he has had to drive his daughter, as many other parents have been doing.

"It is hard to say to our child, you can't go to the magnet program because it doesn't fit our work schedule," he said.

Lisa Baker, also of Forest Hill, said her two children attend the international baccalaureate program at Edgewood High School.

Parents were promised a well-lit, secure location to wait for the bus, she said.

"Bel Air High School at 6:30 in the morning is not well-lit," she said. "I am asking for a safe place for my kids to be picked up from school."

Meanwhile, Sheriff Jesse Bane and a deputy in charge of school resource officers and crossing guards told the crowd they are hoping to speed up hiring of new crossing guards, which must be requested by the schools.

Bane encouraged residents to let the Sheriff's Office know if a guard is needed at a certain location.