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SEPTEMBER 2005
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The School Bus

As The Wheels Turn

Your child comes home angry or crying over something that happened on the school bus. How should you, a responsible and loving parent, handle this event that obviously has your child so upset? What would your child expect would happen next? This column explores reasons parents must be aware their child may be practicing to author a daytime serial later in life.

About the author: James Kraemer often presents unique opinions that can sometimes be in conflict with school bus industry and related government agencies views. The opinions expressed in his commentaries are his own and are not necessarily those of 2safeschools sponsorships or other participants related to 2safeschools school bus safety education activities.

By James Kraemer
©2005, All Rights Reserved. (Contact James Kraemer).

If you love soap operas, then I can't imagine why you're not a school bus driver.

Every day, with a busload of kids riding behind you, can include in the mix a world class real life soap opera.

Wonderful and incredible how life can play out on the bus, sometimes with kids coming up with inventive and outrageously humorous one-liners, while other times a drama unfolds that would hold most of us parents glued to the TV set.

Kids know their parents. And they often know exactly how to get their patrnts attention. The drama a child can act out over something that happened on the school bus is one of the most impressive events a parent can experience.

But to experience a child's drama fully Dad and Mom must have a sense of humor, not take their kids too seriously, and be aware their child may be practicing to author daytime serials later in life.

Act One: (Opening scene, option one) (Click Play Button for Music)
The child enters the home in silence, expresses a sad look, and wonders about or sits quietly somewhere obvious while presenting an occasional sigh.

You're supposed to ask, "What's wrong honey?" If you fail to do this, you will be forced to listen to more and perhaps louder sighs.

Act Two: (Setting the bait.)
Child: "Oh, nothing. It's not important anyway."

You know you're going to bite - and so does the child. The good parent always bites the bait before ever biting the dust. What decent parent can resist a child in such a sad state? You are now obligated to find out what's wrong.


''Were it not for following the practical examples my parents established with me when I was young, then I'd probably be among those in jail now for beating up the bus driver.''
--James Kraemer, 2safeschools

You're supposed to say, "Nothing is more important to me than your happiness. Please tell me what happened."

Act Three: (Prepping the viewer - the useful option to a commercial break)
Child: "Oh, it's that bus driver again. I hate him (or her). Please, Mom, I don't want to ride that bus anymore - not ever." (includes a slight tear for special effects.)

The clever child said, "again," even though this is the first time you've been made aware of a problem on the bus.

The word "again" might communicate an ongoing issue your child's trying very hard to deal with on her own. It was not even mentioned to you the first time the child experienced a problem on the bus.

You're supposed to say something along this line: "Honey, if it is something that's bothering you, then I'm bothered too. I love you. Please let me help."

Act Four: (The horrific and humiliating moment no child should ever suffer is now ready to be presented.)
Child: "All the kids hate that bus driver. But he's especially mean to me. Today for no reason, Mom, he yelled at me, then stopped the bus and made me move to seat one by the window. I was so embarrassed. Please, Mom, don't make me ride the bus ever again." (More Tears)

"All the kids hate that bus driver," can leave no caring parent any doubt how horrible that bus driver must act toward children. And your child is riding that bus? How awful you must feel. And guilty that you didn't know about this child's suffering on the bus before today's tragic event.

Who can resist this plea for help from an obviously innocent child? My kids never lied to me (or made up a soap opera episode). They were not raised that way. Your kids might lie, but not mine - not ever!

My marriage to a wonderful and compassionate lady now includes six children and sixteen grandchildren. On occasion I've actually heard similar soap opera dramas presented in there faithful brilliance from my own kids. Were it not for following the practical examples my parents established with me when I was young, then I'd probably be among those in jail now for beating up the bus driver.

A few rules when you hear what seems might be a soap opera presentation from your child

  • Play to the drama:
    #1 REASON SOME
    SCHOOL BUSES
    ARE VIOLENT PLACES

    2SAFESCHOOLS POLL
    243 votes - Rev: 09/01/05
    Political/Special Interest
    interference with safe school
    bus environments.
    5%
    Indifferent industry/government
    agencies, school administrations
    and school boards.
    26%
    Fearful or untrained bus drivers
    unwilling to stand up for safe
    environments.
    19%
    Uninformed parents lacking the
    information to help.
    7%
    Lack of ethics (moral teachings)
    and accountability in our public
    schools.
    35%
    Kids today are bad kids for the
    most part.
    3%
    Other Reasons 5%
    VOTE

    Get all the information in detail from start to finish, the child's exact description about what happened as described by your child. You want to know everything that went on from your child's perspective. The event may have actually happened in context and may include something we don't like to think about.

  • Call the school bus transportation department: Ask to speak with the bus driver. Another option is to send a note to the bus driver with your child asking the driver to please call. Unless it is something more appropriate for law enforcement to hear, you would want to talk to the adult that was on that bus with your child, not an intermediary. Do this as soon as possible. Wait too long and the driver may not be able to recall the event in clear detail.

  • Speak with respect, adult to adult:
    You must avoid acting out a soap opera episode yourself. You risk ending up with egg on your face should you suddenly discover your child presented you with entertainment, not reality.

  • Find out if the bus is equipped with a video camera. If the bus is equipped with a working video camera, simply ask the transportation department to view the event. Intelligent school districts have working cameras on their buses. And intelligent parents avoid making accusations until finding out what the camera video presents.

    When no working camera is installed on your child's bus - that would be really dumb on the part of the school - then assure the bus driver you want to help improve your child's behavior on the bus. Present what your child said happened from your child's perspective, then allow the bus driver tell you the rest of the story.

  • Find out what happens next, should the child's behavior improve, or in the event the child continues to act out on the school bus. Expect a specific response that does not mollycoddle the child's behavior. Functional disciplinary actions for continued misbehavior may include the child returned to the school or a formal action resulting in removal from the bus for a period of time. What you don't want is a bus driver or school that gives your child too many second chances. A child, left to wonder in experimentation, can eventually become a monster on the bus and at home.

    In this column's soap opera episode it turns out the child was turned around in her seat, pestering some boys behind her, changing from seat to seat, loud on the bus and chewing gum. The driver called out for her to settle down. Her response to the driver included the "F" word. She was then moved to seat one by the window where she proceeded to harangue the bus driver until he presented the option: "You can expect to be returned to the school, or perhaps, can we expect your behavior to immediately improve?" The child's behavior immediately improved, adequate to continue transporting the child to her bus stop.

    Whatever the child's decision, a well-trained bus driver may give you a call concerning the misbehavior on the bus that day. Parents can't help when they are not kept informed.

    Obviously, the child didn't learn this behavior from you, certainly not when it is your example to follow the adult to adult behavior presented above.

    Love your child and forgive him or her before discussing what you now know happened. Be firm in your expectations concerning what will happen next at school and at home were your child to ever again act out disrespectfully toward the bus driver's directions.

    Life often seems an ongoing experiment, especially for kids. Children must try new things, new ways of speaking and new ways of acting. Perhaps it is a child's ongoing effort to find their way toward life ahead.

    All of us, especially bus drivers and parents and where the school bus is concerned, must be ready to listen to our kids and ready to intervene in the behaviors that place kids at unnecessary risk.

    We gotta love 'em. Be ready, and when necessary, be a professional school bus driver and a responsible acting parent more than a friend. (jk)

    James Kraemer has been writing about school bus safety for some fifteen years. This column is part of the author's ongoing effort to help parents, school bus drivers, school staff and administrations improve the environment on our Nation's school buses where needed. If you have a question about a school bus related issue appropriate for presenting in this column, and would like an independent opinion presented on how to resolve it, write to this newspaper, for forwarding to "As the wheels turn."

    Click Here to comment on this story, Subject: As The Wheels Turn

    In the Forums: Bus driver wants to be friend, not adult

    Free school bus safety photos - Need a photo or graphic for a newsletter, brochure or your Website? You will find plenty of free graphics and ideas at 2safeschools Yellow Tin Can.
    Teachers.Net - A national web site for teachers of all disciplines at all grade levels. Provides many resources. Beth Burno writes a regular column at teachers.net called "Schoolhouse Views."
    2safeschools Teachers Webring - over 300 teachers nationwide ready to share their web pages. You'll find a nation's worth of ideas for all grade levels in this webring."
    SNET's Internet Features Page - An excellent web site for parents and teachers, features articles relevant to the home, school and the community environment.
    School Bus Safety CD OfferA little help goes a long way here.
    2safeschools link infoHelp support school bus safety with a link to 2safeschools.
    A Mother's Story - What this mom did when the school and therapy failed her out-of-control son. Excellent reading for Parents and School Staff dealing with an out-of-control teen and nothing else has worked.
    A Librarianís Story - A 10-year veteran of the King County, (Washington State) Public Library resigned rather than carry out library policy of providing children with pornography.
    How to help keep your child's school bus safe - A short article from "In Loving Memory."

    E-Mail your story

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