School Bus Driver Tells Child to Get Off the Bus & Move a Downed, Live Power Line -- Yes, Really

school bus driver asks boy to move downed power line

As parents, we try to instill a sense of respect for authority in our children, but sometimes it's just as important to teach them to question those in charge -- especially if their requests seem unwise or downright dangerous. An 11-year-old boy suffered burns to his hand after his school bus driver asked him to get off the bus and move a downed, live power line. Outrageous!


Apparently, a goose knocked down the power line in Harrison City, Pennsylvania, and First Student bus company driver Patricia Ryan thought it was a good idea to ask Tyler Cunningham to get off the bus and move it.

Thankfully, this boy wasn't seriously hurt, but when you think about the potential for what could have happened to him, it's absolutely mind-boggling. Penn Township police say Ryan endangered the welfare of a child, though the driver says she didn't intend to hurt anyone.

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For parents whose children ride a school bus, this story is a horrifying reminder of just how much is out of your hands once your son or daughter boards that vehicle. But it's also an opportunity to talk with kids about not always listening to what a grown-up is telling them to do. Teaching children to question everything sometimes trumps the message of respecting your elders.

Unfortunately, when I first read this story, I wasn't surprised to see the name of the bus company. I've had my own issues with First Student. My New Jersey school district has a contract with this transportation provider, and when school resumed after New Year's, my son's bus began arriving anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes late -- both going to and coming home from school. 

It was only after multiple parents complained that we were told several drivers quit over the holidays, leaving them short-staffed. So, a driver would complete an entire route and then return to drive the next one. While we understand that things like this can happen, a reasonable person would assume it would only last a few days. Unfortunately, that was not the case. It went on for weeks.

My fifth grader, who left our house on freezing cold January mornings at 7:55 a.m., was not being picked up until 8:25. Parents began pitching in, driving the shivering pack of students at the stop to school, despite the fact that we pay over $500 a year for this service.

On the return trip, he was getting home at 4 p.m., on a good day -- a full 20 minutes later than usual. That's a long one when you're 9 or 10 years old.

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One afternoon, when he still wasn't home at 4:10, I was waiting at the door, consumed with worry that something had happened to him on the one-block walk he takes from the stop to our home. Just as I was about to call my neighbors to see if their children had arrived, I saw the bus fly down our street with the driver reading a map and a bunch of other papers.

Needless to say, I lost it and called the principal and the transportation department to tell them what I'd observed. While they apologized and agreed this driver was definitely putting children (and pedestrians and other motorists!) in danger by reading and driving, I was told this was the only bus company that bids on the contract. So in other words, if you don't like it, drive your child to school!

Sure, it sounds simple enough -- but when you have two other children who arrive home at different times, you also need to be there for them. Add in a full-time job and you come back to the fact that when you're offered a service, which you pay handsomely for, you should be able to use it and trust it, or an alternative should be provided.

Personally, I would like to see this company either put out of business or undergo a complete overhaul before the next story we read has a tragic ending.



Image via Stuart Monk/Shutterstock

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