Judgment Call

Posted on April 1, 2002
Twenty-five high school students attempt to board a school bus that they are not assigned to in what is later viewed as a prank by the school principal. The bus driver, unnerved by the incident, quits. Only three of the students are disciplined by the principal. How would you respond? Principal falls short My first response would be, why only three of the students? Shouldn’t all of the students be disciplined equally? Without knowing more of the situation, one would have to wonder: 1. What sort of prank would entail 25 students trying to board a bus that was not their assigned bus? 2. What sort of prank would so unnerve a driver that it would compel him to quit? 3. Was this the first time a prank like this had occurred? 4. Has the driver had a history of difficulties with that principal? Because drivers are increasingly exposed to physical danger, any behavior that would make them feel threatened should not be tolerated. Some years ago I had a student get on the bus with what I later found out to be a cap pistol. All I saw was he was pointing a gun at me. Since I knew his father had quite a collection of guns, I was stressed enough I almost messed my pants. The fact that it was only a cap pistol did not obviate the fact I felt extremely threatened. In a situation where a school employee or contract employee is threatened or feels threatened, if the school and building administrators don’t address the problem quickly, the problem will keep ratcheting up until someone does get hurt. In regard to the original scenario, I don’t think the principal’s response was adequate in light of the fact the driver quit his job. Mark Obtinario Owner, Cowlitz Coach Castle Rock, Wash. By the book on this one Administrative procedures adopted by our Board of Education include a statement that students will: “Ride only the buses to which they are assigned and normally get off at their regular bus stops.” As soon as a driver saw a problem like the one described, we would expect him to keep the bus door closed and immediately call our dispatch office and seek advice. I would notify an administrator at the school involved and the police department and ask for assistance. I would go to the scene. It should be noted that our school district provides a large security force and one or more school resource officers for each secondary school site. Maybe this incident was meant to be a “harmless” prank, but maybe it was a group of students wanting to get on a bus to “settle a score.” How would a driver know which it may have been? With the potential for a disruptive situation and our zero-tolerance policy toward violence, this conduct would likely be considered for suspension from school, if only on the basis of failing to follow the instruction of a school employee. Our school bus drivers deserve the same respect as any school district employee. John Farr Transportation Director Oceanside (Calif.) Unified S.D.
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