Unfair bus policy

Jackie McCormick

Dear editor:
As a concerned parent and community member opposed to the Rainy River District School Board’s transportation policy, I am writing this letter to bring the issues of the unfair bus policy to the attention of all residents of Rainy River District and to ask for their support in aiding to get the policy changed.
I am a member of a coalition of parents who have joined together to fight against this new bus policy. We feel the current policy is impractical and discriminatory towards rural families and towards any student who uses busing as their mode of transportation to and from school.
The following is an outline of our concerns:
1. Flexibility of transportation
The transportation office has denied requests for alternative transportation that remain unobtrusive to the regular bus route and schedule. Under the current system, child(ren) cannot de-bus at alternative existing stops on their regular route or on an alternate route (where space is available) with parental permission.
Many families live in communities where licensed child care either is not available or not accessible. These families often are reliant upon a patchwork of day homes to serve their needs—day homes that do not remain open when the caregiver is not available, on vacation, or ill.
The current practice is not adequate for these families whose child care arrangements change on a weekly (and, often, daily) basis.
This also means that rural students who rely on busing are denied access to after-school activities and employment opportunities to which their “walking” counterparts are not.
This is a double standard. The transportation department does not monitor walking students to ensure they only are walking to one designated address throughout the school year. Rather, their destinations are at the discrimination of the parent (as they should be).
2. Lack of control at the driver and school level
Secondly, we are concerned with the removal of transportation control from the individual drivers and schools. Families and rural schools have a personal relationship that is seldom seen in larger centres.
The teachers, bus drivers, and support staff live in our communities and often are intimately acquainted with each family’s individual circumstance—making them the logical choice to judge daily transportation needs.
They should be able to do so without fear of reprisal.
3. Infringement of parental rights
Finally, we are severely disturbed by (and challenge the legality of) the inability of parents to remove their own children at designated stops along the regular route.
Custody disputes notwithstanding, parents have the right to remove their children from the bus at any regular stop along the route, and bus drivers should not be expected to deny them access to their own children.
We understand that the policies are intended to protect the busing system from abuse, but we question the disparity between practice and practicality. The current system is neither practical, nor fair.
We require that it be immediately amended with attention to the concerns outlined above, and are willing to work with the board to ensure a solution that is satisfactory to all parties involved.
Please pledge your support in our petition to change the Rainy River District School Board’s transportation policy. Parents, community members, and businesses throughout the district have forms available for your signature.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or would like to sign the petition.
Jackie McCormick
Stratton, Ont.