School Bus Drivers on the Hot Seat
Several drivers have asked me to respond to your article concerning the school bus driver being blamed for student behavior. ("School Bus Antics Probed," March 21.) I am not familiar with the situation of that particular driver, but can speak about the experiences of numerous others who habitually are made scapegoats by the system.
Although many administrators work diligently with the contract drivers, others continually ignore legitimate complaints concerning misconduct and disruptive actions of students on the bus. These actions include disrespect, destruction, graffiti, jTC excessive noise, fighting, standing, quarreling and various other acts of inappropriate behavior that is dealt with daily. Administrators are usually most lax with elementary school students because of their age.
Drivers' hands are tied when it comes to discipline. Their only recourse is to turn in referrals (behavior reports) on unruly students and hope the administrator takes the time to address the problem in a constructive manner. Although guidelines of discipline for each offense are listed on the referrals, they are seldom executed in the appropriate manner.
. . . Due to lack of support, drivers who reprimand students stand a strong chance of harassment, threats and other abuse from students and parents alike. Their only protection is through the legal system. In many cases, good drivers are removed from their route and placed in other areas to appease the disgruntled parents and administrators. Excellent drivers feel despair and frustration when encountering irate parents and administrators who approach problems with lackadaisical attitudes. . . . Parents, wise up. Discipline must start in the home and be enforced through the school system. Your child will thank you later.
To the parents who control their children and strive to make them responsible citizens in our society, you are to be commended and the drivers appreciate your effort more than you will ever know. . . .
Never once has anyone stressed concern pertaining to the dilemma of the contract drivers. Most are highly skilled dedicated drivers who give more than 100 percent to the needs of the students, parents, contractors, administrators and all others involved in the education system. . . . They are rewarded with considerably lower wages and benefits than county drivers in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Prince George's counties, etc. because of contractor's discretion. Some contractors do offer medical benefits at unaffordable rates. Some offer pension plans.
A workday consists of four to eight hours, sometimes more. Duties don't only require driving our most precious cargo safely to and from school. Numerous classes concerning all aspects of safe driving which include nurturing students, first aid, CPR, public relations, rules and regulations, drugs, alcohol, etc. are required in order to be certified by the county. . . .
The county representatives say they want to keep quality drivers, yet they allow poor working conditions and practices to exist among the contract drivers. The county continually trains new drivers to replace those who get their training then leave for better jobs outside the county because they can't afford to stay.
Bus driving is a career and livelihood to most regular drivers. Many are single parents who desperately need affordable health insurance and decent wages. It is time for change. . . .
Recycle Computers for the Schools
I've been following with interest Anne Arundel County Executive John Gary's proposal to upgrade the computer systems in our county schools. I applaud his effort. I believe that our schools and our children deserve the best possible computer support in the classroom.
Computer proficiency will be more important to this generation than any other. I also appreciate the enormous cost involved in upgrading the schools' computer facilities. To that end, I'd like to suggest that we explore developing a partnership between the county's consumer base, the local business community and the schools.
If the trade and business publications are correct, many consumers are in the process of buying new computers. Many are upgrading from older models to the new multi-media versions. Historically, there has been very little commercial market for "used," older computer systems. . . .
The partnership I'm suggesting would let the consumer trade in his old computer on a new model. The business would refurbish these trade-ins and donate them to the county schools. The consumer would benefit by getting some tangible value out of his old computer. The businesses would benefit by being able to write off the donated computers. The schools would benefit by being able to employ more computers in the classrooms at relatively little cost.
. . . Several large computer outlets such as CompUSA, Computer City, Office Depot and Best Buys are located in the county. They have the technical resources capable of handling the refurbishing of these computers. I'd be willing to bet that a significant portion of their customers come from Anne Arundel ,, County. Let's appeal to their community spirit. These large outlets are not the only ones though; there are smaller computer stores and outlets in the county that may also be interested in joining such an endeavor.
It might take a little imagination and creative thinking to work out the details, but the potential dividends are great. If we could get this partnership going, it wouldn't be long before our children and our schools had a first-class computer system. Our children would benefit in the short term and our county would reap the ultimate long-term benefits.
Ronald A. Perron
Thank you for the March 17 editorial on "The State of Drunken Driving." People need to know and be reminded constantly how inferior Maryland's drunken driving laws are compared to other states. The many loopholes that are in the system need to be identified and stopped. People should understand the consequences involved while driving under the influence of alcohol . . .