Appreciating abused school bus drivers

Friday, March 6, 2020

Frank May, a school bus driver in Georgia, recently wrote a letter to his school district detailing the many duties of a bus driver in an effort to promote more public awareness.

“I wanted to let the public know what really is happening on the bus they see 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:

“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 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. 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.

“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 or in the bus. I holler at them several times to stop hitting each other. 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 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, administrator, 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 administration and school board think 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. Then they wonder why they cannot get more people like me. I do all of this because I CARE ABOUT YOUR CHILD!”

Another growing problem concerns school bus seat belts, with many states passing or planning legislation to make seat belts mandatory. Imagine the extra expense and the additional load on bus drivers stuck with enforcing that?

School districts throughout Iowa and across the nation continually struggle finding responsible, accountable school bus drivers, largely because of the facts Frank May just laid out. The low pay and problematic, undisciplined children are driving many great candidates out of the business.

Cherokee and other area schools are fortunate to have a fleet of skilled, caring drivers, but more are desperately needed.

“The satisfaction of safely transporting the kids and being appreciated by parents and children for doing the job above and beyond is my real pay and keeps me going,” said a long-time area school bus driver whose day job is farming 320 acres. “It’s one of the most important jobs out there and is taken for granted. We need more drivers. It’s a real problem all over and I don’t have too many years left.”

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