As the parent of four kids, I am more than familiar with kids’ shenanigans. That experience and hard-earned knowledge sure helps with my job as the pilot of a big yellow nuthouse. I also learned (the hard way) to discipline children (or at least try) … about 10 years too late. All of my kids are now adults with homes of their own. But my wife, who was burdened with the role of chief disciplinarian during their formative years, takes great satisfaction with my daily karmic payback in frustration and aggravation.
(This blog is based on actual events, though names, places and some personal details have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty and avoid libel suits.)
Knowing what many parents are up against, I can sympathize even though I often hear horror stories about how they treat school bus drivers. If we write-up or call out someone’s Precious Boo Boo for a good reason, we are often seen as the villain by their parental units. Sometimes, much worse happens.
A fellow driver — I’ll call him Harry — told me about a father who took exception to his daughter being disciplined by Harry for constant misbehavior on his bus. The father accompanied the girl to the bus one morning and began yelling at Harry, who eventually had to drive off in order to stay on time for his route. The father got in his car and pursued the bus, cut it off, got out, and resumed yelling. Harry threatened to summon police, but the irate dad followed him to the school and again launched a tirade. Harry had been totally right to write the girl up.
SEE: Wrong and Write: The School Bus Justice System
One day, another fellow driver — I’ll call him Lou — had to drop a group of kids off at a different location due to police activity on their street. Parents were expected to meet his bus at the new stop, but only one mother was there when he arrived. When Lou rightly refused to release all of the kids to her, she started screaming at him. She was going to come aboard but stopped when he warned her that cops would be called. (It’s against New York State law for unauthorized people, such as parents, to enter a school bus.) Even so, she still refused to let Lou return to the school with the kids.
I’ve had my (thankfully small) share of parents who were angry, usually because I was late — and often because their little angel or the rest of my precious cargo had been acting up and forced me to pull over and restore order. Some folks are extra steamed because their kid missed a game or appointment, sometimes at cost to them, and some demand compensation! The only consolation I can give is that there wasn’t an accident (with possible injuries) that would have made the bus arrive even later if it arrived at all.
The worst I’ve experienced was a mom who was justifiably upset that her son had been bullied, unbeknownst to me, on my bus the previous day. She was furious and started to come up the steps, threatening to “tear the heads off” the kids who had tormented her son. I fully understood her feelings, but had to tell her she could face criminal charges for boarding the bus and, quite possibly, murder. Thankfully, she calmed down when I gently assured her I would take the matter up with the school and have video pulled.
SEE: The School Bus Camera’s Eyes Have Seen It All
When it comes to enforcing rules, I try to speak to parents before getting the school involved. I disarm them by first explaining that I’m not singling out their kids, many are acting like lunatics (I don’t phrase it quite that way), and my concern is for their safety. Most parents I’ve met understand and try to help. One mom said she’d wait with her son every morning so I could let her know how he was doing. A dad told me to be sure to tell him if his son kept roaming the bus. I let him know. Presumably the dad took action, but nothing it seems will still the feet of Jehosaphat the Notorious Nomad.
SEE: Meet the Hellions
I take some (small) consolation in kids not listening to parents (hardly front page news) when they won’t listen to teachers, guidance counselors and principals, let alone humble school bus drivers. I also worry that if something happens to a kid — say, he or she gets hurt jumping over a seat back — while I’m focused on driving (many people seem to forget that is our main job), I will be blamed. So it was a relief to have the assistant principal at the middle school I drive for tell me, “Most parents sympathize with the driver in cases like that.”
I do find solace in knowing that many of the rowdy kids I drive will some day have kids of their own who drive them crazy. Too bad I can’t be a fly on the dashboard during one of their family trips when they are trying to focus on the road and all kinds of messy mayhem is breaking out in the back of the car. Won’t that be a jolly load of cosmic justice!