The Kid Takes the City Bus (and Sparks a Revolution)

Hi Readers! My favorite quote from college was, “Action breaks the cycle.” You can think and think and think, but when you finally TAKE ACTION, things change. Here’s a story of just that, sent to us by Aimée Lafrenière Turner, who Tweets @AimeeLTurner and blogs at The Maine Page Turner. – L.

 Dear Free-Range Kids: When my son was in the 2nd grade, we wanted him to go to our city Boys & Girls Club after school (he was too old for “aftercare” but too young to be home alone for 2-3 hours after school).  School bureaucracy would not allow him to get onto the nearly empty “yellow bus” that serviced that neighborhood.  However, I was aware that the regular city bus had a stop directly in front of the school, and that very same route had a stop directly in front of the Boys & Girls Club.  No transfers necessary. 

My husband & I both work full-time and our son is not a fearful kid, so this became the perfect solution.  I called the city bus manager about my plan and he was very enthusiastic about supporting young ridership — he even sent me numerous free passes!  I rode one time with Luke to teach him where & how to get on and pay, and understand where he needed to get off.  No problems – he loved it and felt very “grown up.” Over time he even developed little friendships with some frequent young adult riders (there is a nice community college along the route).

Principal Appalled by Child’s Independence 

Well, the principal was just APPALLED that I would put my child in so much danger… No child from that elementary school had EVER used the city bus, and get this – she didn’t even KNOW there was a bus stop in front of the school (even though there was a SIGN on a post directly in front of the school).  I had to write a letter saying that we would not hold the school liable for his safety while riding the city bus (keep in mind, the school department and the bus department are both CITY services – and my town has a mere pop. 25,000). 

The happy ending is that once Luke started riding, MANY other parents started letting their kids ride the city bus to Boys & Girls Club too.  By the time Luke was done with elementary school, there were well over 15 kids using public transportation to get to a fun place after school.  The Boys & Girls Club did ultimately write a successful grant to pay a teen a stipend to supervise all the children at the bus stop (they weren’t in any “stranger danger,” it’s just that the principal was concerned about the kids horsing around at the bus stop – throwing snowballs, playing tag, etc). 

I didn’t know about Free-Range Kids when I made these arrangements years ago, but I felt very vindicated when I found this community. I’m not a neglectful parent, and although I wouldn’t call him “mature” (he’s kind of a class clown), Luke is definitely much more self-reliant than his peers. – Aimee

 

Yes, kids can ride this thing with their parents!

 

70 Responses to The Kid Takes the City Bus (and Sparks a Revolution)

  1. gap.runner November 8, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    Good for Aimee! It’s also great to see that the city transit manager was supportive of her plan. It also sounds like there was a whole community of bus riders who looked after her son. However, that principal sounds like she’s rather oblivious if she never realized that there is a bus stop in front of her school.

    My son has been riding buses and trains by himself, or with a friend, since he was 10. He loves the feeling of being able to get somewhere without having to rely on a parent to take him. This past summer the city where I live had a special promotion for kids. Any kid under 16 who was a local resident could ride the city buses for free. My son took full advantage of it. Even though he could have gone places faster on his bike (my city of 26,000 is a typically compact European one), he wanted to ride the bus. He became an expert at reading bus schedules and figuring out which buses went where he wanted to go. If he ends up moving to a city with a good public transportation system when he goes to university, he will feel confident in his ability to go places without a car.

  2. AW13 November 8, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    My son and I have recently been using the bus system to get around our area. We live in a medium metro area, but there are four towns, two each separated by a river, and three different bus systems, so it is more of an adventure to get around. He just loves it, though, and asks to take the bus quite frequently. I’m pleased that as he gets older, he’ll be familiar enough with it that he can go around as he pleases to places where he can’t ride his bike or during cold weather. (The environmentalist in me is also thrilled that my 3 year old supports public transportation, haha!) And as the letter writer above pointed out, if he should move to a large city with an extensive public transportation system, he’ll know how to navigate it and how to behave properly.

  3. linvo November 8, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    Very timely, because I am considering to let my 8yo catch the city bus home once week after we move to another suburb next year. The school bus takes well over an hour to get from her school to that suburb, the city bus would take about 15 minutes. I would’ve never thought of calling the bus company, but I will do that now to make sure that they will not make a fuss about an unaccompanied child on their bus.

  4. LisaS November 8, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    There are a number of kids at my son’s middle school who ride the City bus system to get there. In fact, he’s looking forward to joining them once it’s too cold to ride his bike every day!

  5. Melissa November 8, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

    I love this story! I took the bus all the time as a kid (probably from age 12+, I don’t remember taking it when I was younger than than 12, but still.
    My SIL is super-helicopter mom and it makes me crazy. She jumps through hoops every single day of their lives to drop off and pick up all 3 kids from 3 different schools, and their various after school activities. My god can no one walk anymore?? My nephews school is 0.7 miles from her house and they have never ONCE walked to or fro. It just boggles the mind.
    Also, my 17 year old niece works at a Boys and Girls club which is exactly 2.4 miles from her house, and it directly on a bus line from her house. My SIL breaks her back trying to figure out how to get from her other daughters field hockey game to pick this one up from work or drop her off (whatever the scenario) and it makes me CRAZY. Let the girl take the damn bus. My god she’s almost an adult. I brought it up to my SIL and she basically said that not picking up or dropping off her kids is akin to being a bad parent in her eyes. It makes her feel good and I’m sure superior to not do anything else in her life except cater to her kids every move and of course keeping them forever safe in the process. She said that her daughter could take the bus whenever she wants once she’s in college, because then she won’t have to worry about her. Um, okay…? How about preparing your child for adulthood and independence while they are still young and safe at home 2.4 miles from their own house?? I just don’t get it. It’s so crazy. Bravo to this mom.

  6. Hannah November 8, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    In 1989 my family lived in Moscow (mom was on sabbatical), and my sister and I (then 10 and 7) walked and took a tram a few miles down the road to school every day. The only danger we were in was getting squished by the other passengers during rush hour! In high school in the states I took the city bus to school along with several other kids from my neighborhood. It drives me nuts that people spend so much time and energy (and gas!) worrying about their kids and things that they can’t control. Now that I have a young daughter, I want to make sure I give her the same trust that my mom put in me.

  7. hineata November 8, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    That’s wonderful, Aimee, and so sensible! Buses are so interesting for kids too, because you meet such a cross-section of people. My girls have been taking the bus from outside their own primary school to outside the one I worked in from when they were eight and seven – a route like the one you describe. I must confess it never occured to me to ask anyone about it, but then it is relatively normal to see unaccompanied children on public buses in our area (rural areas have school buses, so country kids don’t get the same chance to mix with ineteresting adults as our urban variety!).

    I did have one helicopter friend who refused to countenance sending her much larger daughter (same age as my ‘midge’ but looked much older) with my two, because it was ‘dangerous’ (sigh…).

    On another note, there was an actual attempted abduction in our area a couple of days ago, but check out this brave young girl. And the multiple uses for skateboards!
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/hutt-valley/7926159/Monster-beaten-off-with-skateboard

    BTW, it is getting on for summer here now, so 7pm is still daylight, and normal for kids to be going up the shops alone…..

  8. Ann November 8, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

    Love that story! I walked to elementary school, but when I got to middle school, it was really too far to walk. It seemed that “everybody” carpooled (there were no school buses in my district), so I begged my mom to carpool me. She gave me a choice – “ride your bike or take the city bus”. I did a combination of both over the three years of middle school, depending on the weather, what I was wearing, etc. There were only about 10 of us who used the city bus even back then, but I bet now the number is zero. :( Of course, at the time, I thought my mom was just plain mean for not driving me to school, but now that I’m a parent myself and a carpool hater, I get it! :)

  9. Janet November 8, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    Seems like the perfect solution to the problem to me!

    My eldest is nearly 10. She has just been accepted into an academically selective class for next year. It’s at a school some distance away, but we put it as our first preference because it is an easy train ride, and both our house and the school are close to train stations on a direct line.

    Well, you should hear the reaction when we tell people which school, and they assume we’re going to drive (the train goes direct, but the roads are much more convoluted and it would indeed be a crappy commute by car, not to mention two return trips a day for me = nearly 2 hours out of my day). And then the even more astounding reaction when I say, “Oh no, she would catch the train, it’s only 25 minutes door-to-door.”

    The train??? You’d put a 10yo on a train??? Why yes, I would, it’s very handy! But then, this is the child who has decided, along with her friend, that it is much more fun to walk 3km to school, than to be driven, and who, with the same friend, took it upon herself to go to the school office one morning to ask if it was okay if they rode their bikes to school. (Friend’s mother is a teacher there, and reported back to me that the school took their enquiry very seriously, looked up the rules, and the acting principal called them out of assembly to let them know it was okay!)

  10. Earth.W November 8, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    You know, with so many Australian schools having to started to interfere with the lives of their students during out of school hours, I fear this stuff happening here too. Like the schools that have as part of their enrollment agreement that said student won’t use certain social networking sites.

    However, it is very good to see other parents following that line of commonsense. I would not have written that letter for the school as the school has no say over the child during out of school hours life.

  11. Allison November 8, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    When our daughter was in 5th grade, she started riding the bus from the elementary to the University campus (~1 mile) and came to my office. Some people thought we were crazy but it worked great. The first day, I rode with her and the second day my husband “stalked” her and got “caught” by the crossing guard. We didn’t want her to know we were watching her that day but the crossing guard spilled the beans. The crossing guard just noticed my husband sitting there watching and went up to ask if there was something wrong. He explained and there wasn’t an issue at all but she spilled the beans to our daughter the next day! LOL It was nice to know that there were others watching out and if something had gone wrong, our daughter would have had someone to help even if we weren’t there. The only problem we had was when the bus passed by her stop because the driver couldn’t see her (too short) behind a car parked by the bus stop.

  12. Marion November 8, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    When I was in first grade, my brother and I used to take the city bus to school. We had to change buses twice on the way, and we made it with no problem. Children are more capable than some people think.

  13. Rob November 8, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

    At my elementary school, only 3rd graders and above were allowed to park their bikes in the bike rack area. When I was in 1st grade, my sister (who was in 3rd grade) and I would ride our bikes together to school, and park them at the house of a friend who lived just a couple blocks from the school. However it happened that the most direct route to this house was to ride right by the school, and one day we were taken into the principal’s office on the assumption that we were intending to skip class. They had to call our parents who explained that we were just working around their backwards policy of not allowing 1st and 2nd graders to ride bikes to school. After that we took a more circuitous route to our friend’s house in the morning.

  14. Emily November 8, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    When I was twelve, I took the city bus each Wednesday to Leader Corps at the YMCA. I’d take one bus from my elementary school (K-8 where I’m from) to the bus station, and then another from there to the Y. Some years later, I went to a university in the next province over, about 900 miles away, that required a day-long bus journey each way, with multiple transfers. My parents would drop me off at the beginning of the year, and pick me up at the end of the year (because I had so much stuff), but I was responsible for getting myself back and forth during school holidays, if I wanted to come home. Anyway, my point is, taking the bus across town when I was twelve helped prepare me to take the bus 900 miles to university and back when I was older.

  15. Krolik November 9, 2012 at 2:07 am #

    This is a timely (and very encouraging) story for us, as we are currently in the middle of an argument with the school administration over letting my 5th grader ride the city bus to and from school. My daughter had been riding for almost two months when the principal called and said that some “concerned parents” had seen it and urged her to call CPS. The principal brought up abduction and how the world is just “different” but listened politely when I explained my reasoning and pointed out how rare abduction was and how common 5th graders riding buses were in the city, just a few miles away. However, she did feel it was her duty to involve the school board who in turn urged her to call CPS to make sure it was “safe”. She said that “if anything happened it will be my head on the line” and would I be willing to talk to CPS. I said I would. In the meantime I’ve been told to “arrange transportation”, so we’ve been driving to school this week.

    In the four years that I have been reading this blog, I have been often inspired by the commenters who shared stories of successfully raising free-range children in today’s world. Does anyone have any advice on how to conduct the conversation with CPS or anything else we can do to diffuse this quickly? Can a principal really be held liable for how a child gets to and from school?

  16. CrazyCatLady November 9, 2012 at 2:26 am #

    Krolik, contact the bus company. Ask them for stats on issues on their buses. Call the police, and ask if they have data on high crime areas and see if either end is in these areas, or if the bus goes through, with stops, these areas. Also, call the school bus department and ask how many discipline actions are handed out on school buses in the district. I am willing to bet that many more fights happen on school buses than on public buses.

  17. Meghan November 9, 2012 at 2:44 am #

    When I was 12 or 13 years old and my sister, who is two years younger then me, we would ride the bus from mom’s work (she drives a city bus so we kinda knew what we were doing and the driver kept an eye on us) to our school in the next town over. The ride took less than an hour. But after we got off the bus we have to cross a busy intersection. And we did this after school as well. I think its crazy that people think children are incompetent to do this. When my children are old enough and responsible enough they will learn to ride a city bus and they will learn to ride it alone.

  18. Krolik November 9, 2012 at 2:59 am #

    CrazyCatLady, thank you for responding! I have not contacted the bus company or the police yet, but neither the principal nor anyone else I talked to disputed the fact that we live in a very safe suburb with no crime to speak of, or that the bus system does not have a minimum ride-alone age.

    The comparison with the school bus is not really relevant in our case since the reason she takes the city bus in the first place is that at the beginning of the school year we moved outside of the neighborhood served by the school and so are now responsible for our own transportation to and from school. I do believe the city bus to be, objectively, a safer option than driving, especially since, due to the nature of my job, at 8 am I am either asleep or on a conference call with India or (usually) both. And from the few times I did drive her to school during morning rush hour, the bus drivers appear to be the only ones on that road who aren’t talking to India in their sleep while driving :).

  19. Warren November 9, 2012 at 3:31 am #

    @Krolik,

    Since you moved, and the school no longer provides transportation, for your child, that means you are responsible for how your child gets to and from school.
    This makes is cut and dry. The school has no say in how your child gets to school.

    Personally, I would tell the principal, although you appreciate peoples concerns, you and your child are just fine with how things are.
    I would request the names of the so called concerned parents, so that I could tell them to mind their own business.

    As for CPS, I would greet them at the door, and talk to them outside. Explain to them that you and your child are fine with public transportation, that you will not let other peoples irrational fears change the way you raise your child. And if CPS does not like that, well too bad, talk to my attorney.

  20. CrazyCatLady November 9, 2012 at 5:04 am #

    Krolik, I would certainly tell the school (and CPS if they do show up) that due to your job that it would be much safer for your child (and other pedestrians and drivers) to ride the bus than to ride with a sleepy driver or sleepy driver jacked and jittery on coffee. You have the right to have a job that will support your family. Another job, at other hours would not work as well for your family or is just not available.

    If the issue is not the safety on the bus, or crime when your child gets off, I fail to understand what the concern is. Maybe that your child can’t do it? The fact that she has done fine for two months would dispute that. It seems as though you just write a note saying she has your permission to walk to and from the bus stop and that is it. As to issues if the bus doesn’t show up or she misses it home…well, that happens sometimes with kids who ride buses. The parents are called, or in your child’s case if it is not a two hour wait, wait for the next bus.

    Keep us posted on what they say is “the” concern!

  21. lsl November 9, 2012 at 5:17 am #

    Around here, the city buses are free, and hordes of kids ride every day. In fact, the bus system sends an extra bus on the routes that go past the high school, middle school, & busiest elementary school at let-out time for each school, & they’re still standing-room only. In one way, it’s awesome, but it’s also annoying because a lot of these kids haven’t been taught proper public transit behavior, & there’s just SO MANY of them. If I’m running errands using the bus, I try to be done by 3 pm, or wait until after 4 to avoid the crowds.

  22. Donald November 9, 2012 at 5:20 am #

    Well done Aimee!

    It’s well known that children feel better when given responsibility.

    Supernanny Joanne Frost used this in every episode. The converse is also true. Children start running wild when they have very little or no responsibilities.

    Kids want to be adults. One of the best compliments that a parent can give their children is to let them know that you believe that they are mature enough to be given responsibilities.

  23. Kathryn November 9, 2012 at 7:31 am #

    I am a US citizen living and raising a 6 year old in Sweden, and I am amazed at the differences in culture with regards to parenting and fear.

    We live in Göteborg, the country’s second biggest city, yet it is quite common to see children as young or younger than 5 or 6 playing unsupervised on the playgrounds that pepper our neighborhood.

    Children age 7 and up can get bus card that allows them access to all the city buses and trams. Many children travel to and from school that way (on their own).

    School field trips are different too – teachers and students make use of public transit, rather than the school system having and maintaining its own buses. It is not at all unusual to see entire classes riding the bus together for a day outing.

    I guess I have a lot to be thankful for.

  24. Krolik November 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Warren, I see your point, but I would rather avoid this kind of confrontational tone with the principal and CPS. CrazyCatLady, I don’t think making myself out to be an unsafe driver with a crazy job would help my case here. The principal already mentioned that if we are unable to arrange transportation, we should transfer to our new neighborhood school. My stance was (and will be) that we certainly can drive her, but we choose not to.

    The principal knows that it is a short bus ride and a short walk. She knows that my daughter has a cell phone and that someone is usually home in the afternoons to meet her. She knows that we have practiced this many times over the summer and talked about all the unlikely what-ifs. But all this means nothing next to the fear that if something, anything, were to happen to my child, she would somehow be held responsible.

  25. Warren November 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    @Crazy,

    Why should Krolik have to “present” a case to the school, explaining why she let’s her kid ride a bus? Why should the same presentation be given to CPS?

    If other’s have concern, worries, fears or whatever, that is their problem, and as such they need to deal with them. It is not our responsibility to bend over backwards, jump thru hoops, and justify our actions, just to make busybodies, and other’s feel better.

    As long as we continually jump thru the hoops, and go to great lengths to justify, a NORMAL ACTIVITY, then things will only get worse.

    More people need to just stand up and say, “MY KID, MY RULES…….IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT……..SUCKS TO BE YOU. WE DON’T NEED YOUR PERMISSION, BLESSING OR YOUR TOLERANCE. YOU RAISE YOUR KIDS AND I WILL RAISE MINE.”

    Sometimes being nice or diplomatic is not an option. Sometimes these busybodies need to be taken down a peg, and put in their place.

  26. AW13 November 9, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    I forgot to mention: the high school in my city open enrolls and there are a number of kids who attend this school but live in a different city. Rather than take a school bus or insist that parents drive, these kids pick up the city bus outside the high school, transfer to the other city’s bus at the hub, and then (I’m guessing) transfer to the bus that will take them home (the other city’s hub is not in a residential area). So that’s a group of unsupervised high school kids who make 3 bus transfers twice a day, five days a week to get back and forth to school. And the only problem I’ve ever known anyone to have is that they are loud talkers and occasionally swear, though I have noticed that they make an attempt to not swear when they see my son on the bus, which I appreciate.

    However, a family friend has a son who is open enrolled into this district, but he is not allowed to ride the bus. His mother is convinced that something might happen and goes out of her way to pick him and his sister up. She also uses the driving excuse as a reason why they cannot participate in any school-related activities. These kids are 15 and 13, and we have employed the eldest as a babysitter for our son – he is dependable, responsible, and did I mention he’s 15 years old? Almost 16, actually. It’s ridiculous.

  27. marie November 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    CPS? Someone actually suggested that CPS get involved in your decision to let your child ride a bus? The principal is stupid. Sorry, but if she can’t stand up to parents who want to call CPS on this issue, she is a useless idiot. Okay, I understand that you can’t say that to her, but seriously–do not respond as if the principal has a legitimate concern. She doesn’t. If one of her students gets into a car after school and that car is in an accident, is the principal/school held responsible? Nope. This is a non-issue. Don’t treat it as if it is. When you open the door to “concerns” like this, YOU have opened the door.

  28. Sarah in WA November 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    Regarding Aimee’s story, it didn’t make much sense that the principal butted in and expressed concern over the child using the city bus. After all, the school itself didn’t allow the child to use a school bus for the trip, even though one went along that route. If they absolved themselves of the responsibility of transporting the child, then why complain about the parents’ alternate plan? They had to do something, and dropping everything (like work) to drive one child around isn’t an option for many people.

    A lot of responsibility is being put on schools these days–often too much, if you ask me–but then some manage to still attempt to overstep their responsibilities. What a child does outside of school hours and with his parents’ permission is really none of their concern. The school’s focus should be elsewhere.

  29. Ali November 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    Well done!

  30. Lollipoplover November 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    “Children start running wild when they have very little or no responsibilities.

    Kids want to be adults. One of the best compliments that a parent can give their children is to let them know that you believe that they are mature enough to be given responsibility.”

    Donald, I couldn’t agree with you more! Kudos to Aimee for instilling trust in her kid to handle his commute. It’s a rational choice to use public transportation and to encourage our kids to use it, too. I still don’t get where we started making a parental chauffeur the norm for transportation.

    On a side note, I saw a sign for a workshop at the medical complex where I go to the gym. It was about “Handling Defiant behavior in Children”. I keep thinking of this generation of children stuck indoors, pressing their parents buttons because they are bored out of their minds.

  31. CrazyCatLady November 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    Krolik, I see where you are coming from now. If you make it sound like it is hard they will tell you to go back to the close school, which you don’t want to do.

    Stand on your rights to have your child at this school. If needed, ask if there is a district rule that says that school kids cannot ride the public bus. If there isn’t and your child is at school each day, what can they say? You sign a note allowing her to walk to the bus stop and that should be it. Oh, and be sure that that “meeting” they want to have is soon – next Monday if possible. Don’t let them put you off too long. If they do, go in with a note for her to walk to the bus stop….and let her do it. (Maybe pick her up the first day just so they don’t try to detain her…then let her take the bus.)

    Warren, she shouldn’t have to present a case. But they told her she has to drive her kid until they have a meeting to resolve this. And, since she is driving her kid until this is resolved, she needs to be ready to refute all that they say about “anything might happen!” Having a case, showing that they have a plan, hopefully that will convince this silly principal that CPS does not need to be involved. I am sure that CPS has much better things to be doing than this.

  32. Warren November 9, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    @ Crazy

    The whole idea, that a school can TELL you to drive your child to school is utterly insane. At that point the school should have been informed that they are out of line, and to back off.

    This is one of the issues that really irks me, and creates problems for other parents. When people just accept that a school can make demands of parents like this.
    She does not need to refute anything. This is her child, and her choice. This is not within the school’s authority.
    Parents have got to start standing up, and telling school administrators to “Mind their own business, do their jobs and shut the hell up.”
    Hopefully CPS won’t need to be involved. If this principal calls CPS on this parent, I would be calling for the principal head on a platter.
    You are telling this poor lady to jump thru hoop after hoop and bend over backwards, when she is in the right. How ridiculous is that. They do not have the power or authority to do a damn thing about it.
    Stand your ground, and tell them enough is enough.
    Crazy, would you let the school tell you when to feed your kid dinner? When to brush their teeth? How to dress on the weekend? What movies they can see?
    So how they get to school and home is none of their business.

  33. Krolik November 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    CrazyCatLady, thank you for the encouragement! I also hope that CPS has much better things to be doing than this. However, if they do not contact me by next Monday, I will inform the principal that my daughter will go back to riding the bus to school. The reason I have engaged in dialogue with the principal and agreed to talk to CPS is the same reason I proudly tell any parent who asks how my daughter is getting to school — because I am hoping to cause some change in my community by promoting this as a safe and reasonable choice. Unfortunately, so far almost every parent I mentioned this to, even some who are, like me, European transplants, got kind of … twitchy when they heard it. But Aimee’s story gives me hope.

  34. Krolik November 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    Warren, thank you too for reminding me that I am under no obligation to jump through hoops. I would much prefer to bring them around to my point of view than tell them to “shut up” and the call to CPS is a done deal (I have essentially authorized the principal to do it) but I have asserted to the principal (and plan to assert to the CPS) my right to make decisions for my child. You are right, the school has no jurisdiction over what you do at home. Unfortunately, with every school official now a mandated reporter, there is a huge gray area here. They cannot tell you what to feed your kid for dinner but if you starve your kid and they do not intervene, it is their head “on the platter”.

  35. Sharon November 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Every year the school asks (I have a fifth grader) how will my child get to and from school. I haven’t lost her since 2007 and she sleeps in her bed every night.

    My daughter has a friend in second grade. Her mother refuses to use the school bus. She is terrified that her “dear” will get insulted or hurt on the bus. My daughter always gets on a couple of stops prior to her daughters stop. This year I said to her my daughter will be a safety patrol she will watch over her and make sure your daughter is safe. The bullies on the bus last year have either moved, graduated, or in one case went to a gifted and talented program. The mother opted to drive her to school pay over $30 per week and put her in day care 10 minutes before school starts.

    I am also being a little more free range at my teacher conference. I am letting my daughter watch herself, get on the bus, instead of sending her to daycare during our parent teacher conference before school. The other parents will watch her at the bus stop. My husband often watches other kids if the parents have to leave before the bus.

  36. Warren November 9, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    @Krolik

    I hope everything turns out fine. I must assume that the systems where you are very different than the ones here. Our version of CPS, is CAS. They do not have near the authority that apparentyly CPS does. And our school admins are no where near aggressive.
    Our principals may want to tell parents how to do things, but they know to keep it to themselves.
    I had CAS show up once, on a tip from my wife’s ex-husband, 48 hours after we moved. I politely informed the lady, that if she wished to get past the front door, get a warrant signed by a judge, and bring the police as witness, to the proceeding.
    Just because I didn’t have anything to hide, is no reason to accept crap. Or jump thru hoops.
    Never did hear back from them, by the way.

  37. Krolik November 9, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    Warren, I don’t think CPS has any more authority here and know I was within my rights to tell the principal to butt out. I was just trying to be friendly in an effort to shift something in my community rather than put myself in opposition to concerned people who just want to make sure that my child is safe. On this board, we often talk about community and people looking out for each other’s kids. I think for that to work we need to accept others’ right to be concerned for our kids and to offer help when they think it might be needed, just as we might stop and offer our help if we see a child we might believe to be in trouble. However, there certainly comes a point where “concerned citizens” have to be told to mind their own business.

  38. Linda Wightman November 9, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    I don’t know if I would actually do, but I know that what I would WANT to do — if I had to meet with CPS at all — would be to insist on meeting somewhere other than at my home. And I’d have others there to be witnesses. Once you let CPS (or the police) in the door of your own free will, you’ve opened the way for all sorts of abuse. I have friends who are social workers, so I know that most of them are fine people, but there are others who are power-hungry and have an agenda they will stop at nothing to enforce. It’s like the police. They serve an important function and can be your best friends in trouble. But they can also be tyrants.

    I commend your desire to make a positive difference in your community, Krolik, and wish you the best. But do tread carefully. And please let us know how it goes!

  39. EricS November 9, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    Awesome!

  40. Jenne November 9, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    @Krolik – Sounds like you’ve gotten good advice here.

    So….if the school is responsible for the children before they set foot on the school property, then they are responsible for all the children that are driven to school by their parents. It stand to reason then, that if there is an accident on the way to school one morning, the school will be held responsible even though the mode of transport was a private vehicle owned by the parent of the child. Good to know.

    (Dear Principal: you can’t have your cake & eat it too.)

    I would also go around the principal and check with the school district superintendent’s office to confirm that the principal did actually get that directive from “The School Board” (duh duh duh…). I work in higher ed, not elementary, but it still seems suspicious that the entire school board, or at least a quorum (which is necessary for a binding decision), took the time to meet (which by law has to be announced 48 hrs before the meeting and have the agenda publicly posted for review 48 hours before the meeting) and discuss a single child in a very safe area taking a public bus to & from school. I would check the district’s website to see when the last meeting was. If they haven’t met since the principal started this conversation, he/she’s lying.

    Now, on the flip side, I completely understand that the principal is CYAing this situation, but even mentioning CPS automatically takes it to a threat level that is hard to back down from gracefully, or to recover from and hae any kind of relationship with that parent in the future.

    And I’m thinking there are many more children in the district that have significant family problems (economic, abusive, grades, bullying, etc.) that they could be sticking their noses into and making a real difference in their students’ lives, vs. bothering you.

    I look forward to your update next week.

  41. Warren November 9, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    @Krolik

    I understand and commend your patience. I just do not see them as people concerned for your child. If that were the case, they would have approached you, with their concerns. These are holierthanthou parents that believe their way is right, and you are wrong. That is why they went to the closest authority figure, the principal, and urged him to call CPS.
    Those are not the actions of someone that actually cares. Those are the actions of the self-righteous perfect parents, that feel they can dictate their will.

    If they had come to me, they would have been politely informed, that everything is fine, and their is no need to worry. They try to involve the authorities, to get me in trouble? Well they now have lost their entitlement to the benefit of the doubt. Now they get told, where, when, and how to go.
    People that honestly care, do not run to someone in authority, and say “I don’t like this, call CPS.”

    Good luck in your efforts.

  42. Warren November 9, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

    Listen, I know alot of people here do not agree with my no back down, stand and fight approach.

    I am letting you know, that things are going to only get worse.
    Principals forcing parents to drive their kids, because other parents don’t like the child on a city bus.

    Backgound checks to share a lunch in our kids classroom.

    Background checks to watch school sports and events.

    And so on.

    All I am saying is that it is time to stop the silliness. In Kroliks case, enough is enough.
    Stop giving them the satisfaction of making you jump thru hoops, and stand up and tell them “Sorry you don’t like it, but this is my kid. I make the call, not you. Please keep you opinions to yourself, as they are not welcome. Thank you for listening and we expect you to respect our parental authority.”
    If that doesn’t work, organize the parents, call the papers, radio stations and back them into a wall.
    If CPS, the school, or anyone stops your kid from getting on the bus, do not argue, do not hesitate, call the police and have them charged.

  43. Donna November 9, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    There is a difference between accepting that people have a right to be concerned about the safety of our children (to a point), and capitulating to that concern. They have a right to be concerned. They have a right to express that concern. They have a right to offer help if they think help is needed. They probably even have a right to try to convince you that their position is correct. They don’t have a right to demand that you concede to their position, even temporarily.

    I would deal with the school, politely but firmly. I would say that you appreciate their concerns and are very happy that they chose to talk to you about them. I would explain your position and why you believe that the bus is the best alternative for your family and why you believe it to be safe. But at the end of the discussion, make it very clear that, while you welcome any additional dialogue that they feel necessary, this is not a subject open for negotiation. This is a parental decision and your children will be getting to and fro school how you choose and not how the school chooses. And put your kid back on the bus.

    If CPS does show up, do the same with them. Politely, but firmly, explain your position and answer any questions that they have, but refuse to concede anything.

    I would definitely do research and be prepared to refute any claims that the world is so unsafe now. Yes, we shouldn’t have to defend ourselves, but we do. While the Constitution says that my clients don’t need to put on any defense whatsoever, I don’t go into trial and just sit there. I come prepared to attack the position of the other side and with any evidence/witnesses available to prove my client’s innocence.

    By the way, my guess is that the school isn’t doing anything about this right now. You’ve given into their wishes so they will kick the can down the road in hopes that you will continue to just drive your kid to school to avoid further aggravation. But that guess is just based on years of dealing with government entities in general. I don’t know this school principal in particular so I could be wrong.

  44. sue November 9, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    all of you suggesting not letting cps in or meeting in a neutral location: you are aware cps does not need a warrent to enter your house, more often than not they show up with the police to enforce that and once they show you are guilty whether or not proven[ there is not an innocent til proven guilty where they are concerned, just guilty or you got lucky and we didn;t find proof THIS time]. run do not walk to your nearest lawyer and have him ,her ,it or them send a premptive letter informing them of state and federal rights of the parent. if you do not take proactive action this is seen as almost an outright admitance of guilt. to cover their asses they will find something ,anything wrong and demand action[ parenting classes , home “monitering”, meetings with your child at school without your knowledge or permission]. does this sound extreme? yes. is this how upstate ny cps acts on the whole? yes. it is much easier for them to guilt and harass law abiding good parents than those of children who need help because mostly the good parents think if they cooperate cps will see the light, while others are in the system and know how to work it. it’s too hard to go after them.

  45. CrazyCatLady November 9, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    Warren, I am not asking her to jump through hoops. She has already started to go through hoops by agreeing to drive her daughter for a week and meet with the principal and maybe CPS. I am trying to help her show the school that THERE IS NO DANGER. (Emphasis is for the school, you already know that! :-) )

    I have a child with an IEP. He gets speech therapy and occupational therapy at the school. Each new therapist assumes that I am stupid, just a dumb mom who knows nothing at all about the laws or my child’s needs. At times I have had to ask them “Show me that in writing!” When they can’t do that, they know I know my stuff and back down. I have to pull out of the hat that not only am I a mother, but I do have a teaching degree, because in a school system that means a world of difference in how many perceive the others.

    Ideally, the mom would have not agreed to anything more than signing a note giving permission for the daughter to walk to the bus stop. But, school politics are real for this family. The child is going to a school that is a first choice school, not the neighborhood school. This is the best place for this child according to this family. If Mom rocks the boat, if the kid gets in trouble, you can bet they will throw her back to the neighborhood school as fast as they can. Or, that next year there won’t be enough space for this child…or any number of other things. The Mom, in my opinion, maybe not yours, needs to play this carefully so that the child can keep attending the school without repercussions. NO, this should not be a thing that would cause repercussions, but I have seen them happen for less. Mom should not drive forever (as she has already stated.) If possible, the daughter should find some other kids to ride the bus with her. (Note, daughter, not mother.)

  46. linvo November 9, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    I have heard of some pretty far-fetched arguments schools have used here to report cases to CPS. I was the subject of that once and it was extremely unpleasant, but in the end there was no case of course and everyone went on with their lives.

    But I very much doubt that CPS would ever follow up on a report of a child taking the bus by themselves? How on earth could that be an indicator of abuse or neglect? How will the school justify that that fits in with their mandatory reporting requirements?

    I know it is daunting, but in a case like this, I could not see any other possible course of action than to call their bluff. Because we owe it to ourselves and our kids and our community to always stand up to bullies.

    I would ask the principal if she could point you to the part on the mandatory reporting guidelines that she will use to justify this action. I would love to hear her answer.

  47. Warren November 9, 2012 at 10:37 pm #

    I thank the powers that be, that I live in Canada. Holy Crap on a Cracker. It seems like no matter where you are in the states you have to parent in fear. This is ridiculous. Fear of being reported. Fear of reprecussions. Fear fear fear.

    What ever happened to “Land of the Free and home of the Brave?”

    As for this being a first school, does not sound like the best school, if it’s attitudes and ideals are like the one’s we are seeing. And bending over and taking one where the sun don’t shine, just to stay in that school? Not the kind of lesson my kids would get from me.

  48. Jenne November 9, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    One more thought re: the “concerned parents” –

    Mr./Ms. Principal – Regarding the quote-unquote concerned parents that came to you about this issue, here is a signed letter stating that I give you permission to share my home phone number with any parent that voices a concern about my child’s safety in the future, so they may call and speak to me directly.

    Although, if they know who my child is, then they probably know me and are hiding behind you because they choose not to speak to me directly.

    Which brings me to the second letter I am handing you: if this was discussed in a publicly announced school board meeting, this a formal Freedom of Information Act request for the names of the parents that brought this issue to your attention. I am allowed, under FOIA law, to request the minutes of the public meeting at which this situation was discussed (since I don’t see them posted on the school district website).

    Oh, it wasn’t? Well then, since a quorum was not publicly convened within the legally required parameters, there is no official school board decision on this issue.

    Page three is a copy of the email that I have ready in my draft folder to send to each member of the school board, as well as the legal firm of record for the district, asking them to individually confirm that they have spoken to you regarding my child, to detail out their specific concerns and to show me the specific language in the policy manual that holds the district liable for my child riding a public bus to school.

    Just for your information, this fourth page is a sworn affidavit from the Happyville police department, confirming the enclosed statistics regarding child abductions within the city limits, and this fifth page is a sworn statement from the Sunny County sheriff’s department, confirming the enclosed statistics regarding child abductions within the county, over the last ____ years.

    This sixth and final letter is a cease and desist request from our family attorney, and his/her contact information should you want to pass that along to CPS.

    You have yourself a good day now.”

  49. Warren November 9, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    Sue, are you saying that CPS has more authority than local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Because unless invited they all need warrants.

  50. sue November 9, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    yes they do. all they have to do is go to local law enforcement, state the child is at risk in their opinion and they can enter your house, no warrent needed. i hate cliches but here goes;anything to keep children safe. you basically have no rights once cps becomes involved because if you refuse their”requests” you are obviously hiding something and once again in their opinion the children are in danger even more. nice little circle of [non]logic they have.

  51. CrazyCatLady November 9, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    Warren, I agree that this school would no longer be “my” school of choice after this. But then, I am NOT this family and I have to trust that they know what is best for their own child.

    Personally, I home school. I do deal with the schools because of the needs my son has, and as schools are federally required to provide services (which my taxes pay for) will take them up on the services until such time as it is no longer worth the effort. Either my son no longer needs the services, or they have more hoops than I want to go through. But I will always question them on their pronouncements.

  52. Emily November 10, 2012 at 12:28 am #

    Wow, this story is making the whole concept of unschooling sound REALLY good. Also, again, I’ll hopefully be living in Australia again by the time I’m ready to settle down (let alone even think about having kids), and when I lived in Wollongong, there was a free bus system that was used routinely by adults, with or without kids, and kids (middle-elementary-school-aged and up, anyway) with or without adults. As far as everyone was concerned, this was completely normal.

  53. Kim November 10, 2012 at 3:07 am #

    My kids go to a Montessori charter school in the next town over and have ridden the city bus to and from school every day since (and including) their first day of Kindergarten. The same bus has taken them to after school programs elsewhere in town, friends’ houses, and on a couple of occasions, the dentist :). One time a schedule was messed up, and my son was dropped off at home (alone) instead of day care. Daycare called, the bus company called, the daycare director rushed over to our home personally, and the bus company sent a bus back. My son (age 7 at the time) was found unharmed in our living room playing Wii. After a debriefing by the director to ensure he weren’t scarred for life and a million apologetic phone calls to me (really, its okay!), he finished his normal afternoon at daycare. So when I picked him up, I asked if he was scared. He looked at me like I had three heads and said “I just figured you’d be home when you got home.”

  54. Nicole from Mudpies & Sunshine November 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    This really astounds me. Our school has kids as young as 5 going to and from school with no adults aboard (except hopefully for the driver:)). How many grandparents are looking at this and just shaking their heads given their experience with freedom from a young age?

  55. Jenn November 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    My 8 year old son wants to ride the bus to Gramma’s so it made me think of how old I was the first time I rode a bus. I was ten years old and a 12 year old friend wanted to go to McDonald’s for lunch. Never having a practice run (I had ridden the bus a few times but my parents never really taught me what to do) my dad sent me with the friend but decided to follow the bus and take my little sister to McDonald’s. It was a successful adventure and my dad later let me ride the bus solo, go to McDonald’s, go to the mall and all the other things that pre-teens in the 80’s wanted to do. Our goal this year is to teach our son how to do these things so that he will be `beat’ me by having his adventures a year younger than I was.

  56. Warren November 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    I really do feel sorry for parents in the United States. I had always figured certain cultural differences aside, we were pretty much the same. Guess not.

    I can make all the free range decisions I want, disregard busybody school interference in matters that do not concern them and so on, and there isn’t a damn thing they can do about it.

    Our CAS cannot enter our home, detain our kids or anything of that nature without our permission or an actual warrant. And they best have all their t’s crossed and i’s dotted, before they even apply for a warrant.

    Think it is about time that you all get some politicians to address this nazi state that you live in. Best do something now, before it is too late.

    Remember, I can stand in front of Congress, and pretty much get anything legalized in the name of keeping our children safe. That is how they do it. With your current President, and First Lady, the time to move is now.

  57. Emily November 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    Warren, I thought you were from the United States. Where are you really from? I’m Canadian.

  58. Jynet November 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    I was 5 when I started taking public transit to after school activities. Same situation, home and activity were on the same route. 30 years later I met the bus driver again just before he retired, it was really special because we both remembered each other!

    My daughter started taking transit (a direct route) to school in Grade 2 (she was 7), and in Grade 4 started a new school in the next city over from our house that involved transfers between different transit systems (2-3 buses depending on the time of day). She made lots of friends with the college students and government workers who were the primary riders on her routes.

    It was a great experience for both of us.

  59. Warren November 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

    Emily,
    Born and raised in and around Toronto, and am now just north of Kingston, Ont.

    PROUDLY CANADIAN

  60. Emily November 11, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Wow, Warren, we’re practically neighbours.

  61. Warren November 12, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    Emily, and anyone else that wishes to check it out.

    http://www.tirethumpers.net

  62. Emily November 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    That’s very interesting, Warren, but I don’t have a car.

  63. Warren November 12, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    LOL, wasn’t about the tires. There is a map showing where we are. Just curious as to how close practically actually is.

  64. Emily November 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    @Warren–I’m not sure how safe it is to announce to the entire Internet world where I live, but suffice it to say that we’re probably only about an hour or so apart.

  65. Warren November 13, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    That is all I was wondering. Nice to meet you so to speak.

  66. Jenne November 13, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    @krolik – any updates?

  67. Krolik November 13, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    Jenne, thanks for asking. This is the letter I sent to the principal on Sunday:

    Ms. [], [my daughter] will be going back to riding the bus this week. I trust that CPS has confirmed that this is not something they need to be involved in. But if they have any questions for me, I am of course still happy to talk to them. Also, please feel free to give my number to anyone else who reports to you with concerns. Thanks, [Krolik].

    (Thank you for the suggestion, Jenne!)

    The response I received on Monday morning was:

    I haven’t had a chance to call but will do so today.

    And… nothing. She did say the exact same thing the previous Wednesday when she asked me to drive until she’d had a chance to call them. And the original conversation (in which I told her to go ahead and call CPS) was over three weeks ago. So everything does point to what Donna suggested: that she was hoping by letting it slide I would just keep driving indefinitely and she won’t have to do anything.

  68. Jenne November 14, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    You’re welcome! :)

    And if it was SOOOOOOO life-threatening, I’m assuming that she would have found the time to call.

    Or she did — and CPS laughed.

    LOL

  69. Maegan November 14, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    This story and the comments are so inspiring! I’m glad that we can recognize all the great lessons to learn from seemingly small things like public transportation. Every kid should have the chance to make payments, signal stops, give up seats to seniors, read city maps, find transfers, and even get lost! Some of my most invaluable experiences have been taking public transportation while on vacation. How else would I come to understand Manhattan in just five days?

  70. Momof2 November 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    Once the bell rings and the kids step onto the sidewalk, the school is no longer responsible for the kids. Why do they continue to think they are??
    A bus monitor takes time away from her bus monitoring duties to walk my guys across the street every day. Friendly, but unnecessary. They can handle themselves just fine.
    Schools need to stop treating our children like toddlers.