Last week I wrote this – Emma Refuses To Get Off The Bus And A Self Advocate Is Born! That Friday afternoon, I received a letter from the OPT (Office of Pupil Transportation) saying we had a new bus and route number for Emma and to call the bus company for a pick up time. When I called they informed me I would need to call this morning to get a specific pick up time, but assured me that this time the bus was scheduled to take her to the correct school. This morning I called and received their anticipated pick up time and told Em that I would go downstairs to wait with her. Emma was noticeably and justifiably nervous about getting on another bus after last week’s mishap and so I consoled her by saying I would talk to the driver, make sure they were going to the correct school and see if they’d allow me to ride on the bus with her, just this once.
When the bus arrived I spoke with the driver asking that I be allowed to accompany Emma just this one time, given how badly things went last week. The driver told me he’d have to get an okay from the company, despite the bus matron’s loud protests that this was not allowed. Emma held onto my hand as we stood together on the sidewalk and waited while he called various phone numbers, each time being told I would not be allowed to accompany my daughter this ONE time.
I have to interrupt this narrative to say, this is not the first time we’ve had issues with OPT and the bus for my daughter. A few years ago a driver picked Emma up and then, because it was summer and most of the children on his regular route no longer took the bus, he arrived at her school 45 minutes early. Instead of telling the bus company and adjusting the pick up time or telling us so that we could call the company, he drove to a side street, parked the bus and waited for FORTY-FIVE MINUTES with Emma, the only child in the entire bus who had no idea why she was being held captive in an empty school bus on a side street for, what must have seemed like an eternity. He did not try to explain to her what was going on, it did not occur to him (evidently) that being told to remain seated for that length of time might be distressing. The only reason we even learned of this was because Emma came home from school that afternoon agitated and upset and because she is echolaic and is a terrific mimic and captured the driver’s voice and accent so that I was able to finally figure out why my daughter was scripting, “You sit back down! You have to WAIT! I told you to sit down and be quiet!” As there are no cameras on board, I had only Emma’s scripts to rely on. We then called the bus company and our lawyer and Emma never rode with that driver again.
So this morning when the bus told me they would not allow me to accompany my daughter, I did not put her on the bus, but took her to school myself. After numerous phone calls to the OPT, her school and the bus company it was explained to me that they are not legally allowed to have parents ride the bus as it opens them up to all kinds of other issues, the least of which is if one parent is allowed, all parents then must be. I get it. Really, I do. I understand. But how do we move forward? How do we make sure our children will be safe? How do we entrust our children to people who may be given the wrong information? How is it that there are no cameras on board busses taking Special Education children to school? How is it that the State of NY does not have a law that ALL school busses have a GPS on their busses? How is it that once our child steps on that bus, there is no way to supervise what goes on?
Tonight we will, once again do our best to prep Emma for tomorrow’s bus ride. We will tell her that the bus is going to pick her up and will then pick up two more children, that they will then drop some of those children off at a different school, before driving Emma and the remaining children to her new school. I have asked the school to have a familiar and friendly face greet her tomorrow morning. I will do my best to reassure her.
I will tell her she is going to be taken to the correct school this time.
I will go over what she can do if she becomes nervous or scared.
And I will hope that she’s going to be okay.
Waiting for the bus this morning
Emma at the American Natural History Museum