Do you have a child who rides the school bus to school? Even just on occasion?
Then I’m going to guess you’ll be interested in today’s blog post. Let’s first start with a quiz.
1. Do you know the policy in your school district for leaving children at a bus stop without an adult present?
2. Does your child know what to do if the school bus driver never pulls up to your bus stop?
If you don’t have definitive answers to either of the above questions, which until last week, I actually didn’t either, then you’ll definitely need to keep reading on.
I can only speak to Montgomery County – I do not know what other county’s policies are but I would love to know – but in Montgomery County, MD – it is the policy that any child who is not a special needs child can be left at a bus stop with no adults present. This includes kindergarteners. There was some confusion in my home school last week, most parents seemed to think they can’t leave a kindergartener. But they can. It is policy. It is the beginning of our third year with MCPS and I did not know this policy until last week. I accept responsibility for it – I made assumptions – incorrect assumptions. I should have known this.
Also, I had thought through and talked with my daughter about what to do if mommy isn’t at the bus stop and who she can leave with. What had never occurred to me to talk with her about is what to do if the bus driver never drives to her stop.
Guess what kids, this can happen to you because it happened to me and it happened again to another bus route in our same lone school just yesterday. Humans make mistakes. Bus drivers make mistakes, bus depots give bus drivers the wrong route sheet, mistakes happen – but when they suddenly happen to you and your 7-year-old is the one wandering a neighborhood without any adults, a half mile from her bus stop – suddenly – you care.
Cause that happened to my kid. And the 17 other elementary school aged kids who got off the bus last week because, as we now know, the substitute bus driver didn’t have the right route sheet and never came to their stop.
All the drama and the phone calls and the meetings and emails – those details aren’t relevant right now. What is relevant is the huge learning experience here. Now my kid, now she knows VERY CLEARLY that she is not allowed to get off a bus stop that isn’t hers, even if every other kid from her stop is getting off at the wrong stop, even if the bus patrol tells her she will walk her home, we’ve instructed her to stay on the bus and ask the driver to take her back to school.
This might be a big request for a kindergartener but it’s a scenario you should talk through and be prepared for if your child rides a school bus. Do not assume bus drivers know which stops children belong with, who should be waiting for them, or that they’ve missed a stop. Apparently, telling the child who they can leave with at a stop if something happens and their caregiver isn’t there, isn’t enough.
As I think about the Montgomery County school policy that authorizes leaving children alone at bus stops without any adult present, I wonder about the law – can parents legally leave 5 year olds home alone?
Why no, they cannot. In fact, my oldest is 7 and according to the state law right here in Montgomery County, MD, I cannot leave her home alone until she is 8 years old yet my public school system can leave her alone at a bus stop?
I’m confused. And mad as hell. But hey, at least I know the policy. Like Wired Momma on Facebook.