As our readers know well, there are several tasks and responsibilities included within the somewhat oversimplified job title of “school bus driver.”
Frank May, a school bus driver in Milledgeville, Georgia, recently wrote a letter detailing many of them in an effort to bring more awareness to the public.
May responded to what he sees as the transportation department at the school district he works for being taken for granted. He noted that the department has had to run older buses (some being 1999 and 2000 models, he told SBF) and that drivers are paid what he said are inconsistent and low wages, while handling a high level of responsibility.
May sent a letter to the Baldwin County Public Schools school board, and to his local newspaper, the Union Recorder.
“I wanted to let the public know what really is happening on the bus they see or meet going down the road,” May said. “I hear parents and the public in general complaining about bus drivers.They do not know what a driver is going through and handling on the bus every day."
May’s letter is published in full below.
“I say good morning to your child while it is still dark. I help your child get his belt through the loops of his pants. I tie your child’s shoes. I help your child put their coat on. I help your child get their backpack on. I constantly tell them to sit down. I tell them repeatedly to stop standing in the seat. I clean up their vomit from the seat, wall, and floor when they are sick. I tell them to stop jumping from seat to seat. I clean paper, food, spilled milk, candy, sunflower seed hulls, sugary drinks, and other stuff they know they are not supposed to have, from the floor. I clean and sanitize the seat and floor after they have peed because they could not hold it anymore. I tell your child goodbye, have a nice day, and see you in the morning, when they get off the bus in the afternoon.
I tell your child to stay out of the aisle. I break up fights. I pick your child up after they fall on the steps. I find and hold for them their eyeglasses, phone, books, backpacks, lunchbox, pencil, pens, and numerous other things. I find help for them when they are being bullied. I comfort them when they are crying. I tell them to turn their music off. I tell them to lower their voice. I tell them not to hang their arm, head, and feet out the window. I tell them not to throw things out the window. I tell them not to throw things in the bus. I holler at them several times to stop hitting the child across the aisle. While I am doing this I have traveled over a football field down the road and saw nothing but you child’s hand coming down on their neighbor. I tell them what to do in case of an emergency.
I have to do a 50-point inspection prior to picking them up. It is not just your child’s life I have in my hands but 49 to 79 other children at the same time. Your child’s class may have 25 to 30 students. I carry two to three classes at once without a para-professional, aide, monitor, or any other assistance. While doing ALL of the above I have to obey all traffic laws. I have to watch for the OTHER driver pulling out in front of me, stop at all railroad crossings, and safely stop at your child’s pickup point. I have to watch for the driver not stopping for a large yellow vehicle with red lights and stop arm flashing. All of this takes place in a taxpayer funded $80,000 to $100,000 vehicle I am responsible for. I do all of this for minimal pay.
I have been fingerprinted and background checked. I had to get a commercial driver’s license with two special endorsements. I had to pass an extensive medical exam. I am watched on camera the whole time I am in the bus. No other school employee is watched so carefully. At the end of my routes, I walk to the back of the bus to make sure there are no children left on board. During this walk, I see your child has slashed the backs of seats, punched holes in the backs and bottoms of seats, written on and drawn pictures on seats. The seats your tax dollars bought. The school board thinks I can do ALL of this plus parent conferences, parent phone calls, paperwork, and fuel and keep their bus clean in two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. It takes those hours to JUST run the two routes I have in the morning, and then the two routes in the afternoon. Then they wonder why they cannot get more people like me. I do all of this because I CARE ABOUT YOUR CHILD!”