When a mom boarded a school bus this week to take on a bus driver who had joined students in picking on her daughter, she felt like it was her only option. If it sounds like deja vu, just wait. As long as school districts continue to let bullying escalate, these stories are going to happen more and more.
As it happens, Laura Booker climbed on a school bus in the same county where a dad boarded a bus last year to confront the kids bullying his daughter with special needs. And she had a similar problem. Only Booker wasn't trying to talk to the kids. She wanted to face the bus driver. And for her troubles, she had the police standing behind her threatening her with a Taser.
Booker's 13-year-old daughter says she's been bullied by other kids since August, and neither mother nor daughter has received help from the district. But things got really bad when the bus driver blamed the girl for her troubles and called her "ghetto." As Laura told a Florida news station, "When a grown man is bullying a 13-year-old child, it's time for a mother to step in."
So she climbed on a bus. Bad move? Maybe, but think about it. The bus pulls up, and as a parent you stand at the bottom of the steps to talk to the driver. There's no privacy, no way to have a quiet, respectful adult-to-adult conversation. The other kids on the bus can hear what both of you say when there's that kind of distance. What's more, so can everyone milling around the bus stop. Not to mention, as the parent who is down several steps and outside the door, you're put at a distinct disadvantage. A real jerk of a bus driver has been known to simply drive off when they don't feel like talking to a parent. Even if he or she stays in place, a parent is forced to yell up to someone who is talking down to them.
So you climb aboard to get close, to have a normal conversation like two adults. They're close quarters, but what choice do you have? That's the bus driver's "office," so to speak.
Why not call the district, you ask? Laura Booker said they HAD, and to no avail. And let's face it, why are bus drivers different? If you want to meet with a teacher, you can do so face-to-face, you don't need to go through the principal in most school districts to do so. In fact, most districts have specific meet the teacher nights held throughout the year (I just went to one last night). But I've never heard of something similar with a bus driver.
Sure, they're not "educating" our kids, but they spend as much as two hours a day -- sometimes more, sometimes less -- with our children. They are responsible for another sector of our kids' education: socialization. Buses in particular are a trouble spot for "pack bullying," wherein several kids gang up on one ... especially prevalent as kids age into the tween and teen years.
That's something a bus driver should be aware of, something they should be dealing with, AND something they should be talking to the parents about. It's a tough job, but a good bus driver will manage to both drive and ensure kids are safe from harassment. They certainly won't join in with nasty names.
What Laura Booker did wasn't the perfect answer, but in these sort of situations, there simply IS no perfect answer. So as a parent, you do what you can. You protect your kids.
Can you blame her for boarding the bus to talk to the driver? What would you have done?
Image via Cast a Line/Flickr