A Bullying Story: Why I Don’t Let My Kids Ride the Bus

Posted August 27, 2009 by

Photo of annita-woz

I haven’t put my kids on a school bus for the past six years.

The bus picks up students right next to our house at 8 o’clock. At 8:10 a.m. I load my children in the car and drive them to school. Some mornings we pick up a friend or two and cart them to the drop-off zone at the local elementary and middle schools.  Sometimes we sit in traffic right behind the same bus that picks up the neighbors.

I save no time or gas by driving them because we arrive at school at the same time as the long line of bus riders walks from the bus drop-off point into the school.

I have to say that I’m not a helicopter parent, hovering over  every move of my children.  I don’t spray antiseptic on every scratch and I  have been known to put mine to bed without a bath or even brushing their teeth.  At drop-off, I see that the bus riders seem to be just fine, but I wonder if they have a Ted riding in the back of their bus.

Ted is the boy from my childhood whose behavior on the school bus is largely what I am avoiding by driving my kids to school some thirty years later. Actually, Ted and a bus driver are behind my reluctance.
In 1982, Ted the Bully is sitting in the back seat of bus number 16. He routinely lobs an insult or a trick question over the rows of seats. The Ted of bus number 16 can swear up a storm, too. The language is foul, the volume just low enough to sting, but never loud enough to be detected by the driver.  Sometimes after exiting the doors of the bus I find a book missing from my backpack or a spitball in my hair, but some of my worst memories are from commentary about budding body parts from boys who had a clear line of sight to every aspect of my adolescent development and people who spotted my fashion faux pas and from the head to toe inspections, handed out five days a week, rain or shine, as I boarded the bus and scurried down the aisle to take shelter in a seat.

Today I know bullies are bullied, and some do it for attention and some do it because they need to make themselves feel big by making someone feel small. That is little consolation for the singled-out kids out who already feel small as they swim upstream against the vast and varied social rules that define ” fitting in.”

My family sends their kids on the bus and reminds me that sometimes it isn’t the environment that is to blame, but instead each person who bears his or her own responsibility for how they act in situations.
My friends tell me this behavior is everywhere.  It is a part of growing up, they say. It is a part of developing character, finding inner strength, learning to operate in a world with not-so-nice manners.

They assure me that I can protect my kids from a half hour bus ride, but remind me that the same behaviors, (bad language, bullying, sexual innuendo) happen in various places in school. In fact, it goes on through the whole day and until they are back home. They send their kids on the bus where they defend themselves (or fend for themselves, as I say.) They believe their kids are learning good lessons on handling what life throws at them and that the bus is actually a pretty safe place to practice.

As for me, school has started and I’m gearing up for another year of driving my kids to and from the drop-off point right outside its doors. While I know I can’t protect them from everything, this is one small trip I am willing to make to start their days off without a Ted.


Annita Wozniak grew up in a large, imperfect family in the Midwest. "As adults we have the power to build children up or tear them down," she says about the challenges of being a responsible parent, "and we never know when what we say is going to be a defining moment in a child's life." Woz is a writer and child-grower living in the Midwest with her husband and their three inspirational children. She is always learning. You can visit her website at annitawoz.wordpress.com

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  1. safety mats Report

    Yes, All school buses are completely safe. they all have special
    evacuation system. Plus they can make a lot of friends at that age.

  2. Dotcom Report

    I will be driving/walking with my daughter to school until she’s in high school. Those were times I most often got bullied and into trouble when I was a kid. There was not one positive thing about it.

  3. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor Report

    Hi Jane F.. It is very easy to see why you are angry. You have taken a lot of really great steps here to protect your grandson. This is definitely a concerning situation and you are right to try talking to the school, the bus company, and even the police about it. It is the school and bus company’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the students on their property. We recommend that you continue to report any incidents to the school administration and the bus company as they occur. It is best that you keep documentation of the facts and include the facts in your verbal and written reports. Continuing to report the incidents provides a paper trail, a history of the issue, and ensures that the proper people know that the problem persists. If you stop reporting it, they could make the assumption that the issue is resolved. So continue to report to them and challenge them. It might not feel like it because they are not responding yet but you are doing a great job of advocating for your grandson. We wish you and your family luck as you continue to work through this. Stick with it and take care.

  4. Jane F Report

    We are having serious issues with school bus driver this year. He has screamed at the kids, and even did this to a little 7 or 8 year old girl when her mom w3as near by. The child was sobbing so the mom took her to school herself that day. This driver has called my grandson a D-D-D (or triple D, a term for retard). He said this to my 12 year old grandaughter day before yesterday as she was exiting the bus “Don’t let the door hit you where the Good Lord split you”. We have called the bus company, school superintendent, corporate office of bus company, all to no avail. Today as my daughter was waiting at the bus stop, all the kids got off the bus and my daughter took her childrens hands and waited for driver to signal for them to cross…he just sat there to provoke her. She just simply took the kids on across and did not wait for him since he was just witholding the signal to be difficult. I witnessed this from the sidewalk myself. My neighbor who does not have a child on this bus said she would write a letter stating she heard him scream at my grandson so loud one day she heard him from INSIDE her home, and he was on the bus across the street and up at least 75 feet away from her yard. I have repeatedly asked for the drivers full name and correct spelling to file written complaint, I have been refused this information many times. My husband spoke to the town newspaper and they went to speak to the bus company, but they refused to comment at all. I am considering filing suit because apparently the bus company refuses to discipline this man, or at least move him to a different route. I am not the only parent to complain about him, and my husband even went to speak to the bus company manager to get this resolved. It failed to work. I called the police this afternoon because I have had enough of this ridiculous situation. I do not know what to do next. I have a message in for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and I hope they return my call tomorrow. I could use other information as well. I should mention that my daughter (the grandchildrens mom) has bipolar disorder, and this situation is causing her great distress and anxiety, and she is of course reacting out of stress. I have tried to explain that this man’s behavior and comments is very upsetting to me, but it is much more difficult for my daughter to deal with. She is on disability because of the severity of her bipolar disorder. I am having a hard time keeping her calmed down, and it is starting to make me angry because nobody will address this situation.

  5. ICARE4EVER Report

    That takes me back in my youth days, I was a victim of being bullied.
    It started at a young age even before I entered school.
    My peers would make fun of me, just because the way I looked ie.,  my
    size, I developed very early.
    My mother was from the old school, she didn’t believe in a lot of the things,
    that a young girl; should have to take away from being exposed to others.
    I was truly embarrassed, girls and boys would laugh at the site of me. I
    would try to hide myself, I would cry when I was alone.
    As I matured I entered school, it continued, my self-esteem was so crushed.
    I enjoyed track so I start running, my teachers were so impressed with me;
    So I start participating in different types of events.
    440 relay 220 relay I was the anchor, due to my speed.
    I was getting stronger and start forming muscles in my legs, so I went further into the
    track and field. I became a high jumper O my I had mastered that, I was jumping
    fairly high, I started at the low point by the end of the day; I had reached a record mark
    Thereafter I was officially on the track team, I was getting ribbons left and right. 
    There was a particular time, I wanted to go skating, but there was going to be a track
    meet going on; I really wanted to go skating.
    My coach wanted me to participate bad, he said I will pay your way to go skating; just
    please perform for us we need you.
    I did go to the meet, we won, also I felt like a double winner, I had the opportunity to do
    both. (track and skating).
    I felt so good about what I had accomplished, I was on top of the world; I was getting
    credit for what I was worth.
    I was so happy, but out of the blue, two of my family members start making fun of me;
    saying you have boy legs.
    That tore me up, I start reflecting on, the things I had went through earlier in my life.
    It was now time for me to enter high school, I swore I would never run track again; I didn’t.
    See what I did I allowed others to control my destiny…
    But on the flip side, who did I have to turn to, that made me feel comfortable with.
    This goes to show everyone needs a mentor…
    To this day I regret that I allowed that to happen, then again what could I do, during
    those days and time everything was such a secret; no one wanted to admit that” THEIR”
    child was going through something.
    I was heading towards fame, another Wilma Rudolph, or just a star, of my own doings.
    In my adult life I found out, those family members was jealous of me…
    To continue I entered high school, what a rude awakening, I was heading again down the
    same road, where I had came from.
    I was picked on by whoever it really didn’t matter, I was just the butt of the joke, I was
    very shy; so that didn’t help.
    I do remember a certain incident when a peer put a thumb tack in my chair, I sit on
    it. O my I was so humiliated and hurt feeling and  I don’t have to explain that one.
    As time went on I would be called buzzard, due to my name is Ruthie, there was
    a comedian name Ruth Buzzy; but the peers took it to another level and make it
    to be a joke to put me down.
    In essence things just got worse and worse, but I survived, but I had to take a lot;
    I didn’t know where to turn.
    The grace of God has allowed me to make it through all this torment.
    I was a victim of being bullied, I am so glad today they have controlled those effects.
    The children that are getting bullied have somewhere to turn, and it not allowed to
    bully someone.
     In closing I feel it my job to step forth, and say what I went through, in the same token, I am healing my soul; and telling whoever read this you can overcome….

  6. Annita Woz Report

    Shannon! THE POWER OF PARENTS WHEN WE GET INVOLVED- good for you for acting quickly, for seeking out the full story and for not delaying. Remember to document, to stay calm. You will be demonstrating to your son how to handle problems. You want to show him the power of words, the power of conflict resolution and the power of firm expectations and followthrough from the bus, the children, the school.

    DOn’t forget to thank that little girl for having the courage to help him by telling you what was happening. THank her and her family. It will start good conversation in her home as well. It takes a whole bus load of children to make the bus a great place or a bad place.

    ANd thank your son for talking to you about it. It is important for him to know that you love him no matter what he tells you and that you will advocate for him when he doesn’t have the life-experience to handle a situation.

    If that girl had never mentioned it, i imagine he would have thought that is is just “how is world is going to be”. Wouldn’t that be a shame?

  7. Shannon Report

    Our youngest of 4 just started Kindergarten. He rides the bus to and from school. Today when I picked him up at the bus stop an older girl informed me that my son was kissing another boy yesterday. I told her thank you and when we got home asked my son about it. He told me that older boys were making them kiss. From the sounds of it there were 3 little boys that were being made to kiss otherwise the older boys would hurt them. My son loves to think he is this big, strong boy because he has 2 older brothers, one a Junior in high school and the other in the 7th grade. In reality, he is the 2nd shortest in his class. He is tiny.
    My husband and I are going to take him to the bus tomorrow to find out who these boys are and then reporting them to the bus driver and to the prinicpal. I was constantly bullyed on the bus and I refuse to let my child deal with it. I know I can’t protect him from everything and I’m definitely not a helicopter mom, in fact I have a full time job but am on medical disability right now, but this I can stop and I will!

  8. Annita Woz Report

    isn’t it is painful to feel powerless when our child comes to us for help?

    Bullying, in the school, on the bus, anywhere, is not something that parents can solve alone. But beyond our child’s own voice, and the voice of his supportive social network, we are typically thre third in their line of defense.

    Most schools have initiated bullying awareness campaigns/no tolerance in school. THey have initiated campaigns against parents bullying referees/coaches/kids at sporting events.

    I believe most bus systems have bullying policies (and general rules) for bus riders but often the primary focus is on discipline AFTER the act has happened, rather than preventative measures. Cameras- catch the situation after, The principal gets a call after, the bus driver reacts after he/she sees/hears.
    ONe idea just came in from my good friend. Her K-8 school handles bus safety/bullying from a preventative measure. The older kids are paired up with a little kid. I imagine that in this way, the older child learns responsibility, learns to look out for the little guy, learns to think about others, learns to use and model good manners to the little buddy.

    Does it work? She says yes. Hmmmmmmm.

    What are other schools doing to help prevent bullying rather than simply respond. ANd what responses are more/most effective??? Anyone?

  9. cj Report

    It’s not all that different then when I went to school 25 years ago. My son’s school implements not bullying too. But the bullying still goes on. My son states the teacher do nothing and the bully states he did nothing. Unless it is witnessed or the kid has been a trouble maker. We have not noticed much being done about the situation. My son now is states it’s not worth telling anyone about it because nothing gets done. I told him if he would give me the information I would see to it that something is done. He does not know the kid’s name since he is new to middle school and he wouldn’t even tell me what this kid was saying. Sometimes I feel very frustrated with the whole situation. I was bullied in middle school and I told him this. I told him until I stood up for myself and had other friends there to back me up. The bullying continued back then is was my word against hers as well. Does anyone have any suggestions. I don’t want to be seen by others or my son as a overprotective smothering mother but I also know first had what it feels like to be bullied and want this to stop!!!! Regarding the bus I have 3 sons and we only had one incident that I know of with a kid that was bullying them and when I called the bus driver about the situation she said she would handle it. The kid and his parents were informed of the no bullying policy and if it continues he will not be allowed to ride the bus. I asked my son’s how things were going on the bus. They stated no problems.

  10. Annita Woz Report

    Dale, true in some ways…however a 90 lb girl who is getting hassled about her breast development isn’t likely to march up to the muscle bound junior with the menacing face, in front of a busload of kids and punch him in his big mouth…

    SOme kind of punch IS necessary- perhaps a different form though? HOw about strong verbal statement that that expresses her own personal worth and allows her to defend herself? How about taking action that effectively gets the bully off the bus? HOw about knowing that this kind of bad manners is not acceptable and having the driver take some action. HOw about a girl realizing she doesn’t have to take verbal or physical insult and figuring out that she can stand up to him in different ways- via her parents, her school?
    Sadly, kids who get bullied are damaged. They don’t realize how precious they are as a person, and they start to believe they are as worthless as the words they are being called. THey are robbed from their natural instinct to seek out people and situations (and life partners) where manners, kindness, and love. When they give up that quest, the cours of their life may be altered in a very serious way.

    Can a kid count on her bus driver to defend her?
    Can a kid count on her parents to provide support and an alternative ride?
    Can a kid count on her friends to stand up together to the big TEd on the back of the bus?
    Or does everyone just say, “This is how it is to ride the bus.”

  11. Annita Woz Report

    Heartofamom, thank YOU! we do have to be active as parents in this world- it is in many ways the same as when we grew up and in many ways so different. I applaud your son’s problem solving and your support of his efforts. It would be a better world if the busdriver (anyone, really) would only put kids in the spotlight for good things. WOuldn’t taht be a good rule: Only put people on the spot for good things. SHame on that driver. Wonder what his bus riding days were like???hmmm?

  12. heartofamom Report

    What interesting timing of this article. I have had a “bus” discussion with my ‘new to middle school’ young man for the past three days of the new school year. Unfortuantely, the “bully” is not always the kids!
    The first day he came home with stories of the older 7th and 8th grade boys and how they cursed all the time and teased the younger kids nearby. His solution…”tomorrow, ‘B’ and I are going to ride up front closer to the bus driver. He obviously felt this area of the bus was a safer environment. Too bad that feeling didn’t last… Day two: My son and his friend ‘B’ were late getting to the bus after school…they ran to catch it, the driver stopped and let them in, then proceeded to embarress them in front of the other students for being late. My sons response…”I won’t be late again, but the middle school bus drivers are jerks.” Day three: My son left for the morning bus stop, was early but thought he actually missed the bus because no one else was there. He came home and we called the bus barn to confirm the time. He went back to the bus stop and when he got on the bus, the driver asked him if he was the one who called on the time this morning…then embarressed him AGAIN in front of the other kids for not knowing the time to be picked up. Today he didn’t have a solution…just frustration.
    I reminded him that people will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but it is difficult to forget how they make you feel. He agreed, and said he’d try to forgive and forget. I wonder what the next days will bring. I consistently pray over the safety and success for my children. I will continue to ‘coach’ my son about the bullies in life and hopefully he will continue to handle it with maturity and grace, unlike the buss driver. I will also intercede on his behalf when necissary.
    Thanks for the reminder of how important it is that we actively evaluate all the environments oour children are in.

  13. Annita Woz Report

    hmmm Khar, walking- time in nature/outdoors is something that is VERY good for kids, something that goes missing as you mention with the sit in the car/bus…we are too far out to walk, BUT, honestly, we could drive to the library and walk from the Library all together…could all get in some exercise…could teach some street crossing skills, too. thanks for this alternative.

  14. khar59 Report

    My stepkids are in 8th grade middle school and thankfully we’ve only had to use the buses for 2 years of their schooling. My ODD stepson could not handle his 3rd grade year at a metro school on their buses. Too much noise and no supervision were not good for him at that age.

    Thankfully, we’ve lived near enough to schools for a few years for them to walk to and from. I really believe walking to school is good exercise before and after school. It allows them to burn off energy or get their little brains waking up instead of sitting and more sitting. If you guys are near enough to school try walking them.

    I think as parents we do the things we can for our kids for all kinds of reasons. I come from a country that doesn’t have school buses for kids unless they are out in the country. But really, fresh air and exercise is good for them all!

  15. firemom Report

    Dear Annita,
    I don’t blame you one bit for taking your kids. Buses are a serious problem in my county. My son was bullied by an older kid for several days until he decided to fight back (Unfortunately in the restroom before getting on the bus to come home). Both were suspended. He received zeros in all classes and is now going to fail the grading period. We have K-12 grade riding these overcrowded buses! The older kids terrorize the younger ones,use foul language and use tobacco products. We have cameras for what they are worth. If no-one watches the tapes, it doesn’t matter. I usually am able to take them to school, but they have to ride the bus home. I just hate my son (who struggles academically due to ADHD) is being punished on an educational level. He has been held accountable for his actions. I am a firm- TT implementer! I have complained to the bus driver, the principal and the school superintendent. My conclusion is they are not invested in the education on my children.

  16. Annita Woz Report

    Thanks Elisabeth and ABC, you both have made some good points. If I’ve learned anything about parenting, it is to teach our children to try things (brussels sprouts, bus riding) and to tell them to use their words- in this case maybe to tell me that the bus ride is fantastically fun or maybe horrible…and then my job is to be a good listener and see if this bus is different.

    Funny thing how parenting has made me more able to face my fears so that my kids won’t be saddled with my weaknesses…you know, I can touch worms just to show my kids that they are harmless, I can drive my kids to a soccer game in Nowhereville, even though I have a fear of getting lost, I can encourage them to try the bus, even if it is the last thing that I ever want them to experience, much less enjoy…

    ABC I really liked the idea that they make life-long friendships by sticking together on the ride and
    Elisabeth- your strength in numbers, looking out for family is one of the lessons I am always trying to teach in general…hmmmmm.

  17. ABC Report

    I can empathisize. I think people forget a few things though. Bus and school systems differ. One bus route might have behaved kids and another have one evil kid. One bus may have naughty kids and a competant bus driver who can handle it, another may not. There is no one right answer. What I think could be a mistake would be to assume because you had a bad experience on the bus, your kids will. For me the bus ride was where we all developed friendships that we carried into our high school years. If that didn’t happen for me I would have totally lost out on some VERY healthy friendships that would never have occured. On the other hand, if some kid is getting bullied consistently on the bus, that label (wimp, nerd, loser, whatever) will probably follow them into the school, and it is better not to let that occur. I hope you let your kid ride the bus, then tell you if it was problematic before you decide for sure that it is. And remember, bus routes and bullies can change from year to the next.

  18. Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Report

    Annita, I have really been thinking about your post a lot. On the one hand, I so understand where you’re coming from — the bus can be a scary place; at least, it certainly was when I was a kid. On the other hand, maybe letting your kids try the bus wouldn’t be so bad? If they have any problems, I’m sure they will tell you, or at the very least, say, “I don’t like the bus anymore. Can you drive me?” (And my guess is that that will happen sooner than you think!) Also, could the three of them have a buddy system where they watch out for each other on the bus, and then report back to you?
    By the way, I also remember that episode of Raymond. I thought he was being ridiculous — until I had a child of my own! Now I would *pay* to ride the school bus with my 6-year-old. Sigh.
    P.S. My son started first grade today, and he barely glanced over his shoulder as he jumped very happily onto the big yellow bus.

  19. Annita Woz Report

    Dear Babe- aren’t our kids lucky that we are able to make the choice to drive them, to make the choice to put them in a differnt school? How must it feel to be a family who doesn’t have these options…what do these parents do to solve this…do any parents just ride on the bus to check it out anymore? (remember that Everybody loves Raymond episode?)
    Has the change of schools helped? I am torn between whether this bus ride stuff is all about me and my fears (likely!) or if the checks and balances are starting to work like Mr.BusDriver says? Kids seem to make it alive to school every day…and yesterday one of my children said to me,”Mom, I want to ride the bus this year…” School starts tomorrow…

  20. Babe1948 Report

    Mrs. Woz, My son who has Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD was a constant target for bullies. His experiences on the bus gave him nightmares, so I drove him to school. At least there was peace to and from. However, the eventual taunting and bullying in public middle school could not be controlled, our son is now in a private school. We taught our son that violence cannot be controlled by violence, but bullying should be nipped in the bud with strict discipline by the teachers/schools as soon as the offense occurs.

  21. Annita Woz Report

    Mr. BusDriver- THank you, I see I should give more credit to good safety policies and hard working drivers who have to supervise an enormous amount of kids while driving. I do see that you care and that your goals are the same as parents’. Thank you for that insight.

    BUt I have to confess, your words were very reassuring UNTIL I sat and thought that cameras and the policy of immediate removal from the bus is in place because the same things I didn’t like when I rode the bus are STILL happening on the ride to and from school.

    Silly me, I really wanted to hear that kids have better manners today. Instead it seems like manners are worse, especially when unsupervised!

    To put it all into perspective, let me ask this: In the grand scheme of the day, Isn’t the bus ride the most dangerous and potentially the most humiliating part of a kid’s school day? OR is the worst and most dangerous part of the day the ride to school with a mom who plays polka music at high volume while driving her seatbelt0-wearing brood to school as she shouts the spelling practice list to her fourth grader?

  22. nbabinec Report

    Hello Anita! I am with you 100%. I too drive my son to school every day, and I plan to do the same with our daughter. Like you, I realize that we can’t protect our children from all negativity, and I am by no means a helicopter mom, but I will not allow my children on a bus full of 50+ kids ages 5-12 unsupervised. There is no way a bus driver can supervise that many children while driving. I remember what I went through on the bus and I will not subject my children to that type of unruliness. I know my days on the bus were 15 years ago, however we observe enough for ourselves to know that we are doing what we feel is best for our children.

    The same things still goes on on the bus as they did when we were kids. Hanky Panky, fights, bullying, scheming, bad language. I don’t know about you but I don’t want my 8 year old around kids that are in the 6th grade using profanity and trying to get to 2nd base in the back of the bus.

    I get a ton of criticism from other parents, family members, ect. It doesn’t bother me one bit. There will be plenty of life situation for them to defend themselves, make independent decisions and so on.

    Like you Anita, I will continue to take our children to school. I love doing it and I drive happily every morning… usually right behind the bus.

  23. Mr David the Bus Driver Report

    Anita Woz, I can sympathize with your plight. When you rode the bus, it was apparently a little hell on earth.
    But may I tell you that in today’s “Bus” world, there are checks and balances everywhere. If the child informs the driver, he/she must respond in some way, shape or form. There are three different video views on each bus these days, and if there is ever a complaint, the video (DVD on many busses) can be retreived and viewed (and heard)by anyone concerned. Bus drivers may not always hear or see the infraction, but a video with sound is always there to assist you and the school officials. There are very strict procedures in place for disciplining the “Bully” or bullies and, at least in our school district, bullying is NEVER tolerated. It results in immediate suspension from the bus and if it persists, it results in permanent loss of bus riding priveleges. As I understand it, the no bullying policy is in effect for inside the school as well. It may not always work, but this day and time, bullying is almost like a hate crime. Bus drivers are trained and re-trained each year to be on the lookout for Teds and to listen to children like you or your children. We are on your side, really.



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