5 Terrible Things You Learn As A School Bus Driver
Most involved parents can probably tell you just about anything about their kid's school ... except the name of the person who drives the bus. Which is weird, considering what an important job that is. After all, the worst that, say, a bad teacher can do is convince a student to major in philosophy. If a driver fails at doing their job, children are going to fucking die.
We wanted to know about this insanely underappreciated profession, so we talked to three experienced child herders: Jay, Mike, and Adam. They told us of how ...
Students Abuse The Drivers All The Time
Children can sometimes be vicious dickheads with the empathy of sociopathic sharks, so it should come as no surprise that if you put them in a car driven by someone who can't legally smack the smirks off their stupid little faces, things tend to get ugly, and fast. "I have a coworker who is absolutely gorgeous," Jay explains, "and while she is tough, she had to give up her after-school route because the high school students were sexually harassing her. Things like loudly imagining what it would be like if she sucked this kid's dick, or straight-up propositioning her for sex."
The drivers have no power to punish that. There's a form they can write up which causes the student to lose bus privileges for up to three weeks, but all it takes is mommy having a fit, and the kid's back the next day.
"How would my son even KNOW about sex? His father and I never had sex!"
Besides, the form can often do more harm than good. As Adam explains: "There was one kid [who] sucker-punched the driver and just walked off the bus ... You can write them up, but if a kid gets kicked out of school, you might have to drive them to a new school district [because] of the No Child Left Behind policy ... The worst that we've ever done is drive four extra hours just for one kid."
In extreme situations, bus drivers are allowed to call the police, which is what Jay's friend did when one of the students threatened to kill her. That story has a happy ending, though: The driver was ultimately forgiven for snitching and making the school look bad. But that doesn't always happen. "We had one driver," Mike explains. "She was doing an after-school run when a fight broke out, and some kid backed her into the stairwell and started hitting her. He knocked the radio out of her hand and punched her. It was all on camera, but because she pressed charges, the school said, 'We don't want you driving for us anymore.'"
"Jessica was assaulting at a fifth-grade level, and now you've stunted her growth."
Bus Drivers Can't Touch The Students -- Not Even During Medical Emergencies
People are always going on about wanting to protect children, but if they actually meant it, then school bus drivers would be given extensive first-aid training and permission to catapult troublemakers out of the vehicle via ejector seat. (Also, all buses would be equipped with ejector seats.) Instead, what most drivers are given is less authority than a mall cop. "We aren't allowed to touch students, even if they're trying to kill each other ... It could lead to a lawsuit," says Jay. Meaning if a fight breaks out on his bus, the most he can do is yell at the kids and radio the school for help. That's it. This is the policy in many if not most school districts.
"HEY, STOP FIGHTING BACK THERE ... Oh well, did all I could. I have $30 on Billy! Who's in?"
Bizarrely, the same "observe and report" approach applies even to life-and-death situations. "We've had entire training sessions devoted to telling us how to react in an emergency, and it's basically: Don't touch the kids for any reason, including them choking or having a seizure ... I've heard people on the radio absolutely panicking because a kid is bleeding profusely or having an allergic reaction, and they're just told to get to the school as quickly as they can, or home if they're closer."
That's right: school or home. The administration forbids Jay from taking sick/injured students to a hospital, in case their family doesn't have health insurance. The protocol is to either get them to the school nurse or dump them on the parents' doorstep.
We're running a little late, so I'll get as close to Billy's house as possible, and then everyone roll him out. On my mark ..."
Ultimately, the schools are so afraid of what might occur during a driver-student interaction that they forbid all but the most minimal, fleeting contact. "I get preschoolers who occasionally want a hug, but we aren't allowed to, as it could be interpreted as a sexual thing. We're supposed to high-five them instead."
Children Have No Sense Of Self-Preservation
For Jay, it's normal to see students leaning out of the windows, opening the emergency exits, or yelling at pedestrians (usually something vulgar/sexual). Every jackass stunt like that means precious seconds of him not paying 100 percent attention to the road while operating a five-ton vehicle hurtling down the street.
"Why should we care? We're reasonably sure we're immortal."
Shockingly, this leads to a lot of accidents. According to Adam: "I've become a little more strict about making kids sit down, because I've picked teeth out of the back of the seats." Now, some behavior is understandable -- like when preschoolers violently yank on Jay's ponytail. Yeah, it's dangerous as shit, but hey, they're kids. They don't know any better. But then you have high school students who like to light up inside the bus and get Jay secondhand stoned.
"I had kids smoking pot on my bus. One time, some girl shouted, 'Who wants to smoke this fatty with me?' as loudly as she could. I hear that kind of thing all the time, so I ignored it. It wasn't long before I distinctly smelled it, and started feeling the effects ... I got panicky and my vision blurred, so I pulled over. The police were called, but they couldn't conclude anything." And remember, short of magically teleporting next to the student and snatching the blunt from them, there was legally nothing that Jay could have done, other than radio for help while some little asshole hotboxed the entire bus.
"Whoa, man ... The wheels on the bus really do go 'round and 'round. Heavy."
But sometimes, the passengers take a more active approach to murdering everyone on the bus. "Kids have thrown things from the back which hit the windshield and smacked me in the face," Mike said. "You try to explain to them 'Hey, we could have died,' and they just don't get it. They just think they were funny. 'Yeah, we hit the bus driver.'"
Due to that, some drivers have been known to "brake check" the rowdy passengers. Now, they are obviously not supposed to suddenly slam on the brakes and make kids smash face-first into the seat in front of them. We are also not endorsing this behavior. But the drivers aren't allowed to interact with the students beyond shouting at them, and most school buses don't have seat belts, so ...
"Let's see if I can catch air on the next speed bump."
"The few times I did it intentionally were off main roads," says Jay, "and I did it because the kids were so loud, everyone was standing, I couldn't yell loud enough to get them to sit. I have never done it to elementary kids, though." Which is admirable, but not essential to keeping your job as a bus driver. That's because ...
It's Almost Impossible For A Driver To Be Fired
Remember that driver we mentioned earlier who was fired for reporting a student assaulting her? No you don't, because she didn't lose her job -- she merely had to change routes. Oh, not because the school's administration ultimately realized that they were being jackasses, but because drivers cannot be fired, no matter what. What's even weirder is that you only need a commercial driver's license to get this job for life in which you can do pretty much anything you want as long as you don't put your hands on the kids.
Well, this character suddenly makes a million times more sense.
"I know several drivers who run the same red lights every day, or speed in excess of 10 miles over the limit," Jay told us. "There's a huge shortage of drivers across the country, and they're desperate to keep people on, no matter what they do. Leave a student on the bus after going home for the day? Still working. Crash into a house? Still working. Sexually harass employees? Still driving." And harassing, we assume.
And all those cases that Jay mentioned aren't hypothetical. "A month or so ago, this guy somehow didn't notice a little kid sleeping in the seat right behind him, and left him on the bus. He was working again after about three days ... Also, right before the end of school, another driver crashed on the freeway under odd circumstances. [He] couldn't even get out the front door, it was so mangled. He still has his job."
"Well, you didn't touch the kids by trying to rescue them, so we'll see you again on Monday."
And those are the screw-ups that we know about, which probably doesn't even cover half of it. As Mike explains: "If I get a DWI or anything, I have to report it to work, and I'll probably be sent on a 'vacation.' But it's up to me to report it. If I don't, and my employer does find out, my 'vacation' becomes a more permanent one."
School Buses See More Action Than Some Brothels
Alright, you probably knew this was coming eventually.
"Last year, we had two kids who were boyfriend and girlfriend orally pleasing each other, to put it kindly," Adam says. "There was even a camera on them! They'd put a blanket over themselves, and on the camera, you can see how suddenly her head just went down ..." Not that adults are any better. During off hours, Mike's company rents out their buses to people who are too cheap to spring for the stretch Hummer. And because people are terrible, their primary response to being given access to something intended for children is to whip out their genitals.
"One time, I was driving for a high school reunion and taking the people home after," Mike says. "Everyone was drunk, and I just looked up and managed to see this one woman's ankles up on top of the seat. I thought she was just passed out or something. Then I saw a bunch of cell phone lights come up and realized she definitely wasn't ... It's happened at least twice on private runs."
"Sorry, kids. We gotta wait for the Hazmat Team to get here."
And yes, those buses are the same ones that later take your kids to school -- hopefully after a thorough wipe-down and a long cry for humanity in the shower. "There is not enough disinfectant," Mike says. We say that's the understatement of the fucking century, so maybe you should buy your kid's bus driver a Christmas present this year. A crate of Purell would be nice.
For more insider perspectives, check out Kids Want To Finger Your Butt: Adventures In Teaching Abroad and 5 Shocking Realities Of Working With Disturbed Children.
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