It is dangerous being a school bus driver these days.
For the last two days, in the Hixson, Tn area, there has been a driver that has had to put up with fights on his bus. This morning he was actually injured. The students that caused his injuries were students who have been written up for past offenses, but were still riding that route. Actions are being taken to try to get another driver and another bus to service that particular stop, but the students, or at least the students not arrested (if any of them were, I don’t know), will still be receiving transportation.
There are so many reasons for why all this is going on. One reason is the fact that the students that are causing trouble are from families that have no control over their children, nor accept responsibility. Another reason is that the children have no respect for authority, no fear of consequences, and respect for themselves. The real immediate problem, however, is the inability of the bus drivers to discipline students in any way, nor put these dangerous, anti-social students OFF the bus. Literally, the driver’s hands are tied – tied, that is, to the steering wheel. The only thing they can do is defend themselves when attacked, but even that is subject to legal issues.
There are many people, if not most, that think it is a right to ride a school bus. It is NOT a right; it is a PRIVILEGE! Children are required by law to attend school (or home school), but students are not guaranteed the right to ride a bus, especially if they are making life miserable for everyone else, disobeying rules, or hurting people. Sadly, certain groups of people have a problem with thinking that they are “owed” certain rights based on their economic status, location, or ethnicity. The fact is that buses in Hamilton County are owned by a company, not the county, and drivers work for this company, not the tax payer. As a company, it reserves the right to decide who it will, and won’t allow to ride it’s buses. Now, the contract between the company and the county may make certain exceptions, based on law, but no student is above the law, nor has the right to ride regardless of his actions.
Another problem that exists in Hamilton County is that bus drivers are required to handle everything that goes on on their buses and still drive. What is a driver supposed to do when he is driving in the dark hours of the morning with 60-80 kids? How is he/she expected to deal with trouble starting and try to drive at the same time. It is hard, believe me. Other states require that another person ride with the driver so that the driver can do his job of keeping the bus on the road. That is not the case here; only with special needs (small bus) routes.
I think that there should be an outcry on behalf of those that literally put their lives on the line to transport the most valuable cargo in the world – our children.
As school bus drivers, we should be able to protect and defend ourselves without fear of law suites, but we should also be able to defend and protect the students put in our trust. When we are not allowed to do anything other than talk to and warn kids, or write them up, many more drivers and students are going to get hurt by gang members, hoodlums, and spoiled rich kids. Sadly, again, it is the law that protects those who are causing so much trouble. What’s the answer? Get the laws changed and allow the brave men and women who transport our children to have more say-so in who is allowed to ride. That would be a start, at least.