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KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Putting the (Bus) Wheels in Motion

I've managed to prod my school district's board of education into action on the bus-bully issue! Go ahead, faint. I'll wait till you come to again.

[Hums while she waits patiently ...]

I've been trying to get the Three Village Central School District to do something district-wide to ensure that children aren't bullied on school buses. Right now, each school principal or assistant principal handles each reported incident after it happens; there's no systemwide action taken. Two weeks ago, I attended a school board meeting and asked the board to consider either hiring aides to ride herd on the kids or installing video cameras so that the kids would know that their misbehavior was being recorded.

I went back to the board last night and asked what the board was going to do. The superintendent of schools began dissembling, saying that the school district takes the issue seriously but that the board didn't "have the sense that there's a problem [with bullying on the buses]."

And I said, "So the board isn't going to do anything?"

The board president said that the board could request a proposal from the bus company for installing cameras, so that the board could see what the cost would be. A trustee said that such cameras cost $2,000 apiece; other trustees said that that was expensive. The vice president said that the district wouldn't have to buy a camera for each bus but could just install the camera shells on every bus, buy a few cameras, and rotate them among all of the buses so that kids would never know when cameras were actually recording.

Another trustee said that she'd like the proposal to include the cost of having DriveCams installed on the buses too. One male trustee said, "Oh, well, you could go hog wild on some of this stuff!" I loved it when the trustee who wants DriveCams stopped him in his sarcastic tracks by saying, "Not really. DriveCams are pretty much standard equipment these days." She said that with DriveCams, you can see who's at fault in accidents and see when the bus drivers are driving safely.

The president then directed a trustee to contact the bus company and see what capability it already has for cameras on its buses. The president said that he believed that the company operates several bus yards and may already have some capability in some bus yards other than the local one.

The proposal from the bus company will be due when the board is working on the 2008–2009 budget; that starts in January, with the budget vote scheduled in May. I won't show up at every board meeting from now on, but I will monitor upcoming meeting agendas on the board's meeting web site and will attend any meeting when the cost of bus cameras will be discussed.

Now, the board could very well decide not to include cameras in the final budget if it thinks that they're too expensive and that taxpayers won't pass the budget with the camera costs in it. And no board member even said a thing about the possibility of hiring aides to ride the buses. But I didn't even think that the board was going to issue a request for a proposal; I thought I'd just be blown off. Last night was at least a start in the right direction.

Moral of this story: Get out there and speak up for what's right. One person can have an effect!

Updated at 6:07 p.m.: Our first-grader was reprimanded by the bus driver this afternoon for pounding on the back of the bus seat in front of him. Jared told my husband and me that he hit the seat out of frustration because a child who was in that seat didn't stop hitting the seat himself when Jared asked him to. We told Jared that just as we expect the other kids on the bus to behave, we expect him to do so too and that the bus driver was correct in reprimanding him. I think Jared was mostly embarrassed about being called out by the bus driver, but he was none too pleased with his parents either. We're so mean. ;-)


Anonymous said...

Your best move was to accept the bus driver's handling of the seat-pounding incident. That ought to stem the flow of comments later on that you're that woman who thinks her kid can do no wrong.

Good for you.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Yep, the thought that people might think that of me passed through my mind. When the story about us appeared in Newsday, there were a lot commenters on the newspaper's web site saying that I must be a "rich b*tch" (Rich? Me? Ha!) trying to protect my "little angel" and that I wasn't letting him "grow a set."

There are apparently quite a lot of hit-first-and-talk-later adults out there, the ones who think that bullying is just a ritual of growing up that everyone has to live through to mature, to toughen up, so why do anything about it. I find that attitude appalling.

They have no clue that I'm a pretty strict parent and have high standards for my children's behavior.

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