Let's ditch the cowboy terms

Frank Di Giacomo
Posted on August 13, 2013

When someone leaves a door open or otherwise exhibits bad manners, the time-honored reprimand is, “Were you raised in a barn?”

I’d like to propose a variation on that old question: “Do you work in a barn?”

The answer, of course, is no. You work in a professional pupil transportation facility with highly trained staff members who are dedicated to the safe and efficient transportation of students. Unless something goes terribly wrong, there are no chickens laying eggs in your office or goats chewing on spare parts in your shop.

So why are school bus terminals sometimes called “bus barns”? We still see the term pop up from time to time in news reports. In some cases, it could be the reporter’s own creative touch, but more likely it came from the person who was interviewed for the article — maybe a district official or a police spokesperson.

In fact, we do occasionally find examples of school districts clearly calling their own transportation facility a “bus barn.” We just spotted the term on the transportation page of a school district’s website.

We also found a recent news story about another district in which a school board member was quoted using not only “bus barn” but even “bull pen” — apparently referring to the fenced-in lot for the buses.  

I will admit that we’ve been guilty of letting “bus barn” slip into the pages of SBF in the past. But we’ll commit to stop using the term if you will.

Wild rides?
Along the same lines, I can’t help but question the use of the term “roadeo.” This one is still very commonly used for events in which school bus personnel demonstrate their first-rate driving skills and their knowledge of the critical responsibilities of their job.

I acknowledge that “roadeo” is a clever name (combining “road” and “rodeo”), but let’s take a closer look at the association it makes.

Rodeos are events in which cowboys ride bucking bulls and broncos, wrestle steers and race horses as fast as possible around barrels. They are by no means the safest of activities.

School bus driver competitions, on the other hand, are all about safety. They are opportunities to showcase the caution, precision and training involved in operating a large, yellow bus.

Many state and regional events are called “roadeos,” but the annual championship doesn’t use that term in its title: the School Bus Driver International Safety Competition.

Some states are using similar names. Those that aren’t should consider it. Calling your event a “safety competition” highlights the safety aspect, and it creates consistency with the international-level event.

Stay current
Especially in a time when school bus services are widely threatened by budget cuts, it is imperative that the industry emphasize its relevance, its professionalism and its commitment to safety.

Calling your school transportation facility a “bus barn” does not suggest any of those things.

Can we all agree to put the cowboy terminology, ahem, out to pasture?

Related Topics: public image, safety competition/roadeo

Comments ( 9 )
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  • Feisal Jahay

     | about 4 years ago

    Here at USD 460 we use the term "bus barn" and "bull pen". It has nothing to do with cowboys or farm. It is a term to describe a location. What goes on inside that building is what is important. As for the rodeos ---the cowboys who perform there are some of the best in the world. It is an event that professional compete with the best of the best. It is no different for bus rodeos. Bus drivers are showing their skills to be the best of the best.

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