Is ‘Sit down and shut up!’ considered way too harsh? | AspenTimes.com

Is ‘Sit down and shut up!’ considered way too harsh?

Chad Abraham
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Waiting for his students to board Thursday afternoon, Stephane Peltier says the ticket system is a good idea but hasn't issued any because he has well behaved kids. "It's a good idea," he says, "I have wonderful kids. They're great." Paul Conrad photo.

The Aspen School District is putting the brakes on rowdiness on its buses this year, leading one parent to question whether the crackdown on the rules is overzealous.

Candice Barnett of Snowmass Village, the mother of a fifth-grader at Aspen Middle School, said she was upset with the way her daughter’s bus driver was handling things. The driver is strictly enforcing various rules for how students behave on the bus. And that’s exactly what she should be doing, according to school district officials.

Bus drivers “are trying to enforce some things that they haven’t been doing in the past,” said Aspen Middle School Principal Phyllis Taylor.

“Last year, parents complained that kids were too out of control on the bus and that it was a safety issue, which is true,” she said. “In defense of bus drivers, they have a tough job. The kids are pretty excited about going to school, and they’re pretty excited about leaving.”

Barnett said she understands the safety concerns, but still wondered if her daughter’s driver was being too harsh.

“They have to have rules enforced, but come on,” she said. “Wouldn’t you think that [the driver] should be concentrating more on driving than nitpicking? I’m kind of scared there.

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“Last year, the bus driver allowed them to eat Pop Tarts on the bus, allowed them to do these things. This year, [this driver] is impossible.”

Barnett said she confronted the driver Thursday morning. The driver’s “only explanation was, ‘Well, those are my rules and you should’ve gotten a copy of the rules.'”

She said she never received the list of rules.

Taylor said this was the first complaint she had heard from a parent about the bus service. She defended the enforcement, saying that unruly children can quickly create an unsafe environment for the driver and students.

“When you get that many kids on the bus, they have lots of energy [and] they sometimes don’t realize that what they’re doing is unsafe,” she said. “There are school rules for how to behave on the bus so that the driver is not distracted.”

According to a letter sent to parents titled “School bus safety and your child,” progressive disciplinary action is taken when a student breaks the rules. Barnett referred to these as “tickets.” Her daughter received two in two weeks, she said. Three offenses results in “automatic suspension of riding privileges,” according to the letter.

Taylor said a student with three offenses would be suspended from riding the bus for a few days. More days without bus service would be added if the student kept getting into trouble.

The letter details 13 offenses, ranging from refusing to obey the driver to hanging out of a bus window, that will get children into trouble.

As for the rule against eating, Taylor cited concerns over choking and kids passing food around, which could also distract the driver.

“There is a district policy on how kids are to behave on the bus,” she said. “There are guidelines, and in all the districts I’ve ever been involved with, I know that riding a bus is a privilege, not a right.”

[Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com]