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April 23, 2012

I am SO far behind with posting here. Since my last post, there has been another Scholastic Bowl meet, three track meets, and a surprise trip to Disney World that I need to talk about- not to mention the occasional “being a smart-ass for no reason” post- but I just haven’t had the time to get the posts written. This post, however, I felt I needed to make the time.

Adam rides the bus to and from school. However, we have some issues with the bus driver over the course of the school year. Nearly every morning, he yells, “SIT DOWN!!!” to–no, he yells AT Adam and the other kids that are getting on the bus, before they even get a reasonable chance to find a seat. One morning last fall, he pulled the bus out from our stop (the last stop on the route) onto the “main drag” through our subdivision right into the path of an oncoming car that wound up having to slam the brakes so hard that it skidded AND smoked the tires. The bus driver didn’t even slow down.

A couple months back, he suddenly started singling out Adam and a couple of the other first graders on the bus as the “troublemakers” and, every morning since, puts the bus in park, gets out of his seat, and shows these kids where they are to sit. No other kids on the entire bus are forced to sit in a certain seat.

Now before I go any further, let me acknowledge that I do not consider Adam to be the perfect angel 100% of the time. I know he has some issues with sitting still and facing forward, as the driver has mentioned to us a couple times. That said, there has never been any notice from the school that Adam has been a habitual problem on the bus or anything like that. I mean, not to try to excuse anything, but he and his friends ARE first graders. At any rate, just laying the groundwork that Adam doesn’t always sit still but it’s not like he is a MAJOR disruption or anything.

So fast forward to this past Monday, a week ago today. Dawn walks down to the bus stop to meet Adam off the bus. I was working in the back yard. Right about the time I hear the bus go down the street, my cell phone rings. It was Adam’s friend’s mom Carrie, who lives about 4-5 blocks away, along the bus route. She also watches a small handful of the kids after school until their parents get off work to come pick them up. She tells me that Adam is at her house. Right about this time, the bus pulls up to the stop, and Adam is, obviously, not on the bus. As the other kids are stepping off, Dawn says to them, “Where is Adam?!”, to which they replied that he got off “at Levi and Jonas’s stop”. We have no idea who Levi and Jonas are or where they live. Andrew, our next door neighbor who is one of Ian’s good friends, said that he didn’t know the name of the street where he got off, but knew where it was, and volunteered to take Dawn there. They start walking back to our house, and as they get close, I came out from the back yard and my conversation with Carrie, and told Dawn that he is at Carrie’s, and she leaves to go get him.

The details still are a little fuzzy as to why, exactly, Adam got off the bus at Levi and Jonas’s stop, but the last thing I’ve been able to get from Adam is that Levi grabbed Adam’s arm, started pulling him toward the bus door, and told him that he had to get off at Levi’s stop or Levi wouldn’t be his friend anymore. Now, in a young school child’s mind, that is the biggest threat they can receive, so Adam reluctantly went with Levi. Not that he had much choice, if there is any truth to Adam’s story that Levi had him by the arm and wouldn’t let go.

I gave Adam the talk about how dangerous that was, about how much he scared his mother and me by not getting off the bus at our stop, how lucky it was that Levi took him to Carrie’s and that Carrie knows us and knows how to contact us, etc., and how horribly wrong the whole thing could have gone. He got the picture fairly quickly. “I’m so sorry, Dad!”, he said into my shoulder through freely flowing tears.

Then I kinda felt like shit. I mean, I wasn’t trying to scare the poor kid, but he needed to know the potential for disaster if he gets off at a different stop without Dawn and me knowing ahead of time.

Anyway, in the school’s policy manual that we get at the beginning of every school year, there is a sentence under “Bus Procedures” that states, and I quote,

 Children are to get on and off the bus at their assigned bus stop.

In the next sentence, it goes on to say:

The driver is not permitted to allow children to board and exit the bus at any stop other than the assigned stop without prior approval from the school.

Not only did ‘Driver’ (I’m trying my best to withhold his name, in case some sort of legal thing winds up occurring) allow Adam to get off the bus, but he also did not say a single word to Dawn at our stop as to Adam getting off the bus at a different stop, or where, or anything.

This is our issue.

Dawn was first wondering if maybe that was her fault because she did not directly address ‘Driver’ when the bus arrived. She asked the other kids because they all know each other, they’re all friends, and they all routinely play together. Dawn and I are good friends with their parents. We routinely drink and/or grill out together, we take turns watching each other’s kids… let’s just say, we’ve met. But since she didn’t specifically ask ‘Driver’ why Adam wasn’t on the bus, she thought maybe she was at fault. I countered that by saying that there is no way in hell he couldn’t have heard her talking to the kids. Dawn’s like me in that we’re both loud anyway, but doubly (or triply) so when agitated. In other words, he had to have heard her. Bottom line, he should not have let Adam get off at a different stop. He is not allowed to do so, and he did. Regardless of whether Adam should have known better or not, ‘DRIVER’ IS AT FAULT HERE.

After a very brief conversation, Dawn and I decided that, with me being available to do so, it would be best just to take Adam to, and pick him up from, school every day for the rest of the year, and then we would revisit the bus situation in the fall. So for the rest of the week, we’ve taken him to school and picked him up. I was kind of concerned about pickup at first, since when Ian was about Adam’s age and going to school there, 3:30 was pretty much mass chaos. A sea of parents met by the tidal wave of kids coming out to meet them. But so far (knock on wood), Adam’s done very well as a “car rider” and we’ve had no troubles picking him up.

Dawn said that she isn’t sure ‘Driver’ really even knows who Adam or any of the other kids “are” or to what stop they belong, and also doesn’t make the connection as to whose kids belong to whom, though we’re all always there to drop off and pick up the kids every morning. He either doesn’t know, Dawn says, or doesn’t care. Either way, I say that that’s a reason ‘Driver’ has no business driving a bus.

Andrew said that ‘Driver’ routinely yells at the kids, even know that Adam (and Carrie’s son- she yanked him a couple weeks after the whole thing started with Adam and him being singled out and told where to sit) doesn’t ride the bus any more. I say that that’s a reason ‘Driver’ has no business driving a bus.

Andrew has said that, in the past, ‘Driver’ routinely makes wrong turns on a bus route that, according to the bus company, shouldn’t take more than about 17 minutes. We don’t live very far from school, but it’s far enough to allow for bus pickup. Actually, I think it’s because one of the streets kids in our neighborhood have to cross to get to school is deemed “too busy”. At any rate, I say that that’s a reason ‘Driver’ has no business driving a bus.

Andrew has said that ‘Driver’ often can’t hear the dispatch radio when they call for him. He says most of the time, they (the kids) have to yell, “‘Driver’! Answer the radio!!” Between that and the aforementioned pulling out into traffic, and actually INTO traffic (apparently he can’t see well either), I say that that’s a reason ‘Driver’ has no business driving a bus.

In my dealings with ‘Driver’, which is at least once a day every single day of the school week for all of this year, it is apparent to me that he doesn’t really seem to like kids at all. ‘Driver’ is an older gentleman, probably in his mid-60s or so, if I had to guess, and I believe I would be safe in describing him as “crotchety”. I say that that is a HUGE reason ‘Driver’ has no business driving a bus– and especially has no business being entrusted with the lives of 30-40 children in a 30,000-lb moving vehicle. (Or however the hell much a bus weighs… totally not the point.)

Anyway, the next morning after this happened, Dawn took Adam to school, and got Adam set up as a “car rider” with the school office. She left a message with the principal, called and left a message with the school district transportation coordinator (Dawn was told he was in a meeting) and the bus company. The principal called back, the bus company spouted their union shield bullshit of “Well, that doesn’t sound like anything ‘Driver’ would ever do”, “‘Driver’ has been driving for us for many years with no complaints against him”, and what not, and as of this posting, to my knowledge, the district transportation coordinator has never called Dawn back. Shocker. I know that this situation is not the only thing with which he has to concern himself, but after a week now, at least a phone call saying, “I have received your message; I’ll look into it and call you back when I have more details” would be nice.

On Thursday of last week, Dawn was told by the principal that ‘Driver’ has been “reprimanded” for allowing Adam to get off at the wrong stop. Pardon me if I sound vindictive, but a reprimand is really of little to no consolation to me, at this point. We’re going to get through the rest of the year taking Adam to and picking him up from school, but if ‘Driver’ winds up driving Adam’s bus route again in the fall, there will be problems. Carrie has already said that if ‘Driver’ has the route next year, she will be “that mom” until our route gets a new driver. She said she will show up at her stop every morning and afternoon with a video camera, taping everything he says and does, and will be, in her words, relentless in trying to get a new driver. Should we have ‘Driver’ again, I will be joining Carrie in her… um… relentlessism.

Again, perhaps to some, I may be being vindictive, spiteful, or whatever, but tough shit. This man let my child off the bus where he wasn’t supposed to, regardless of the circumstances- whether he just let him go, whether he didn’t see him get off, or whether he didn’t make the connection- and did not say a word to Dawn, when arriving at our bus stop, that he had done so, or where he got off, nothing. I do not trust this man with the welfare of my child- or, for that matter, that of any other child on that bus or any other- and I am to the point at which I will not be satisfied until ‘Driver’ is no longer driving ANY school bus. Yes, I know, this situation turned out fine, but that is not the point. It COULD have been disastrous. Had the unthinkable occurred, I assure you my name would be bouncing along every radio frequency and my face across every TV screen in the state until ‘Driver’ were dealt with in a fashion I deemed just.

Yeah, I know that sounds a bit harsh, especially since it didn’t actually turn out that way. But I am very confident that, had it been your child, you’d feel the same way I do, regardless of how it actually turned out- THIS time.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Marjorie Stearns permalink
    April 24, 2012 9:10 am

    Don’t do anything that makes him try to get revenge. It’s not worth getting shot over, or him actually hurting one of the kids.

    • Johann permalink*
      April 24, 2012 10:00 pm

      Dude can’t see well enough to get a clean shot at me, and if he hurts one of the kids, even if it isn’t Adam, it will be the LAST thing he ever does. Guaranteed.

  2. DBeaum permalink
    April 24, 2012 2:01 pm

    From the way I understand District 186 bus policy, if there is report of a problem the bus company is to put a monitor on the bus. And all buses are to have a vidoe surveliance on htem too. Call the bus company and tell them you want to see the video and audio tape from that day to see excactly what happened. That will get them all worked up!

    • Johann permalink*
      April 24, 2012 10:08 pm

      There’s never been a monitor on the bus. I have no idea if there is surveillance or not. Biggest thing that pisses me off is that the transportation guy has never called back, and the bus company was all, “That doesn’t sound like anything he would do”. If he has the route next year, I WILL become Asshole Dad until he gets fired. Or at least moved to another route.

      • Johann permalink*
        April 24, 2012 10:10 pm

        Only problem with him being moved to another route, then he’s going to be doing this shit with someone else’s kids. That’s really not acceptable to me at this point.

    • Marjorie Stearns permalink
      April 25, 2012 7:03 am

      The don’t keep the tapes forever. To save money, they use the same tapes over and over. They aren’t very good quality to begin with, and after they’ve been taped over a few times, the quality is very poor. The tapes are probably reused in a few days.

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