Wednesday, September 26, 2007

School Bus Drivers Gone Wild

No, they didn’t pull up their uniform shirts to reveal their bare breasts or display their beer chugging skills. But what they have done is every bit as bizarre. Each of the three incidents listed below happened in my school district over the course of 32 hours.

Yesterday, a middle school bus driver rammed into the back of a car stopped at an intersection. This happened in broad daylight on the morning bus run. Several people in the car were hurt and were transported to the hospital. Fortunately, none of the children on the bus were hurt. The bus driver was charged by the police with reckless driving, so while we don’t know the whole story, it’s probably a safe bet that the bus driver was at fault.

Also yesterday morning, a bus delivering a child to my daughter’s middle school, pulled into the bus lane at the school, told the student to get off the bus, and then pulled away. Doesn’t sound too unusual until you find out that the bus was a ‘special’ transportation bus, and the student is diagnosed with autism – not mild autism either. This is not a student who speaks and one who seems to ‘hold it together’ best when life is safe and predictable. Needless to say, this student did not ‘hold it together’ yesterday morning. Now in this particular case, I do have to wonder where the teacher and aide who are supposed to meet the bus each morning were. So, while the blame for creating a bad situation for a student with special needs can be spread around, the bus driver absolutely should not have driven off and left the child standing alone.

And then this afternoon, I got to experience one of these rogue bus events first hand. My daughter’s aide was not available to meet her school bus this afternoon. I left work early so I could be home to meet the bus. Right on time, the bus (a short bus, by the way) came roaring up my subdivision street, and then with its brakes squealing, it came to a stop in front of my driveway. As some of my readers may know, my first career was as a police officer. Were I still in law enforcement, that bus driver would have gotten a summons for speeding.

The driver opened the bus doors, and both the driver and the aide stayed in their seats and said nothing. Since I have been chastised in the past for being a parent and getting on the school bus, I just stood at the door, also not saying anything. I guess the aide got uncomfortable with the silence, or else the spirits of bus aides past told her to get her lazy posterior in gear, because she stood up and handed me my daughter’s backpack and white cane. I stood there holding both things and waited for the aide to assist my daughter off the bus. Silly me….

Again the aide and driver did nothing. Finally the aide was again moved by the spirits and stood up, went to stand next to my daughter and…well, that was it. She just stood there. Since my daughter is deafblind, she probably didn’t even realize the aide was there. Finally the aide reached down and started pulling on my daughter’s arms, which caused my daughter to just resist. Finally, I suggested the aide speak loudly and tell my daughter that ‘Mom’ was waiting for her. The aide ignored my suggestion and instead reached to my daughter’s leg and tried to get her to turn out toward the bus aisle. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I got on the bus, signed to my daughter that it was time to go in our home, and immediately she started to stand.

I did notice that my daughter had a bit of a glazed look in her eye, and that she was a little unsteady. I asked ‘Did she have a seizure?’ The aide answered with “She ain’t had no seizure.” In a less than polite tone of voice, I asked if the aide knew what my daughter’s seizures looked like (seizures can look very, very different from person to person). Again the aide said “She ain’t had no seizure on the bus!” Okey dokey then. I took that as my cue to just leave.

Did someone put a crazy chemical in the bus exhaust system? Did the bus drivers and aides meet for a little spiked coffee before the morning bus runs? Is my school district so desperate for bus drivers that one need only be breathing to qualify for this job of ensuring the safety of thousands of students each school day? I don’t know the answer, but I just hope that the drivers and aides don’t start ripping their shirts off tomorrow morning.