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Posted at 11:49 AM ET, 10/27/2009

Who is responsible for kids after school?

By Valerie Strauss

A recent story on The Sheet about a 5-year-old boy who was mistakenly put on a school bus in Alexandria and then let off in a strange neighborhood sparked a number of responses. One reader, Melanie Klein, shared a letter she had just sent about bus policy to the Montgomery County Public School system’s director of transportation, Todd Watkins. Here it is.

Dear Mr. Watkins,

My daughter is a second-grader at Roscoe Nix Elementary School. Normally I pick her up from school, but occasionally she has to take the bus. I arrange for a babysitter to meet her at the bus stop.

Yesterday was the first time she had to take the bus this year. She asked me what would happen if the sitter failed to show. I assured her the bus would return her to her school.

When I called Transportation to verify this, I was stunned to learn that the bus would simply let her out at her stop. She would be left with no adult supervisor; I am not sure if she knows the way home, and she does not have a key. Clearly I will need to come up with a back-up plan in case the sitter has an emergency. However, I am appalled by this policy and urge you to change it.

I was told that children in Kindergarten and up would be let out at their stops with no adult present. I understand that some children are met at the bus by parents, other adults, siblings, or babysitters, and that some children walk home alone from the bus.

I would hesitate to criticize the arrangements another parent makes for her child – I understand how hard it is to be a working parent. However, there should be a plan for the child regarding who, if anyone, is authorized to meet her at the bus, or if the child is permitted to exit the bus without anyone meeting her. This plan should be in writing, and filed with the school and with Transportation.

Furthermore, if the designated person does not appear at the bus stop, that child should be returned to the school or transported to a central, safe location. It is incredibly dangerous to simply let a 5-year-old out on a street corner with no adult present. It might even be considered reckless endangerment. The school will not release my child to a stranger at pick-up time. I must authorize the release of our child to anyone other than myself or my husband.

I do not believe that the school system’s responsibility for my child ends at the door of the school. Students have the right to be transported by bus, and they should be the school’s responsibility until they are released into the care of a parent or guardian, unless other arrangements have been made.

Thank you very much for your attention to this matter. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to call me.

Melanie Klein

Shirley Brandman
Jerry Weast
Annette Folkes

Melanie Klein said she received a letter from the school system that quoted the district’s policy, which says that parents are responsible for picking up their children at bus stops every day.

You can read about the policy here and here.

Klein's response: “I know what their policy is -- their policy is WRONG.”

Do you agree with her or with the school system?

By Valerie Strauss  | October 27, 2009; 11:49 AM ET
Categories:  Montgomery County Public Schools, No Child Left Behind  | Tags:  Montgomery County Public Schools, bus policy  
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So if a parent is stuck in traffic, or heaven forbid, in an accident, the bus driver lets the five-year-old exit the bus alone?

I can see why the school system's stated policy is parents must meet their children. But in case of emergency, there should be something in place short of letting a small child fend for himself.

I find that pretty disturbing.

Posted by: trace1 | October 27, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

It is the parent's responsibility.

Posted by: RedBird27 | October 27, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Klein is dead-bang right. Of course it's the parents' responsibility. But [stuff] happens. So the real question here is what happens then -- what matters most? CYA? Or protecting the child?

Worst-case scenario: I am on my way to the school bus when I am in an accident. I'm injured, can't call anyone to get there on time. What should happen then? Does the school say, oops, too bad, it's your responsibility, so we're kicking your 6-yr-old off the bus; too bad if something happens to her, don't sue us, not our problem? Or does the school say, oops, something's wrong, don't know what it is, but we'll figure that out later; in the meantime, let's keep this kid safe?

The default should always, Always, ALWAYS be the safety of the child. Even if it's ultimately the parent's screw-up -- figure that out with the parent some other time, when the kid is not standing on a street corner. Don't make the child pay because it's "not my problem."

Posted by: laura33 | October 27, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

This actually didn't used to be the case in MoCo -- I grew up in MoCo schools, and I remember my best friend in kindergarten beign returned to school when her Dad wasn't there to get her from the bus. So either I had a rogue bus driver, or the policy changed. I would love to know WHY it changed if it did.

Posted by: | October 27, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

This actually didn't used to be the case in MoCo -- I grew up in MoCo schools, and I remember my best friend in kindergarten beign returned to school when her Dad wasn't there to get her from the bus. So either I had a rogue bus driver, or the policy changed. I would love to know WHY it changed if it did.

Posted by: | October 27, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

As a parent of a first grader in MoCo who rides the bus, I think it's the parent's responsibility. We practiced walking home a few times, just in case there's no one there (but in reality, there are numerous parents at our stop every day). She doesn't have a key, but knows whose doors to knock on if she needs something.

Posted by: CalBears1 | October 27, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

If a younger child is worried about a caretaker not being present, they should have the option of being returned to school. Otherwise it is not the school's responsibility. Do you expect the bus driver to have to make sure that every child has someone at home before they let them off the bus? If you're worried about it come up with a backup plan on your own. Too many people expect the government to take care of everything for them. The schools have enough to do during school hours without babysitting your kids after hours as well.

Posted by: c5flteng | October 27, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

As someone who was alking home regularly from elementary school by 2nd grade (often to an empty house where I occassionally had to jimmy the lock to get in) I don't understand what the concern is about. It's the parents' obligation to show the child how to get home. Personally, I would rather have my child walk home from the bus stop to teach him a little self reliance. Truth be told, I learned a heck of a lot more about the world in the conversations I had walking home with my buddies than I would have sitting in the car with my mom.

Posted by: Rob63 | October 27, 2009 8:47 PM | Report abuse

who is responsible for children after school...hmmmmm....maybe the woman in charge of the womb that bore said child???....or if available ,the male that placed spermatozoa into said womb for conception....and if neither kook wants to be responsible...tell me...why in hades did you not use protection!?..Ladies..since you choose to mate with hoods and thugs...use THE PILL!!!!!!...than no unwanted pregnancy and thus destitute child will occurr due to mom and dad being LOSERS!!!!!!!!!!..take the little easy a cave girl can do it!

Posted by: kiler616 | October 28, 2009 12:43 AM | Report abuse

As a parent, given the times we live in, I sympathize with Ms Klein. As a teacher, principal, and a former bus driver, I can tell you the policy changes Ms Klein wants are impractical and impossible to implement. These policy changes would result in higher transportation, and personnel costs. Ms Klein, there are already existing afterschool programs at MCPS schools for unsupervised children as well as private afterschool programs providing transportation and supervision. There is a cost for these services. It sounds like Ms Klein does not want to pony up and instead wants FREE afterschool care from MCPS. Ms Klein, if you are really concerned about your daughter, you would pay up instead of relying on an overworked, underpaid, bus driver to make split second decisions about your daughter’s safety. By the way, if the bus driver decides not to drop your child off at the bus stop because the babysitter is not present, then the next stop for you daughter would not be school but rather the police station with child protection services giving you a call for possible child neglect.

Posted by: motherseton | October 28, 2009 7:18 AM | Report abuse

I find this interesting because in Fairfax County they state to you in the student’s rights and responsibility forms that the school is responsible for you until you enter your house. It was mostly used so if students started fights, had trouble with the police or other things on their way home from school the school could still discipline you. I remember having kindergarten bus duty as a sixth grader taking the AM kindergarten group home at lunch. If there wasn’t a parent it was my job to get the kid back on the bus to take back to school. Sometimes a parent at specific stops had permission to take kindergarteners that parents weren’t there.

Posted by: beebug | October 28, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Simply another result of the moral and ethical decay of our communities...

"Hey, I dropped them off at the bus stop. I gotta make a living!"

Posted by: tjhall1 | October 28, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

The parent is responsible. If the parent does not want the responsibility, time to sign the child over to a responsible family member or the state.

Been there. Had the gut-wrenching experiences. Worked together with my neighbors to be sure someone always kept an eye on all of the kids.

Posted by: zzzdoglie | October 28, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

But of course Ms. Klein. We, the people, will gladly pay higher taxes so our government can be a nanny to your children.

GROW UP and take responsibility for your own flesh & blood.

Posted by: Rich393 | October 28, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Like Rob63, I also walked to and from elementary school by myself. Granted, times were different then, but it seems hard to believe that a child--even as young as a second grader--is not going to know his or her neighborhood. If a child has a bike, he or she can explore it very well and very quickly.

At a minimum, a parent should TEACH the child the way home from the bus stop, as mentioned by CalBears1. The child probably has friends from school who get off the bus at the same stop. If the child's parent is not at the bus stop when the child arrives, the child can go to the friend's house.

Also as mentioned by CalBears1, as the parents or babysitters are standing around waiting for the bus, they can meet each other and make a plan for what to do if the bus gets there before a parent arrives.

Posted by: david_in_taipei1 | October 28, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

It's sometimes hard for parents to make that leap from when their child is a toddler, then preschooler, and then moves on to become an elementary age child.

During those earlier school years, the child is cosseted (appropriately so) and is delivered directly to the classroom door and picked up from the classroom door. Once they get to elementary school, many school systems refuse to drop off kindergarteners at their bus stop unless an adult is waiting for them, but . . . as the child gets familiar with the routine and matures (yes, I know a first grader isn't really mature, but he/she is more capable than a 3 or 4 year old), then I think it's perfectly appropriate for the responsibility to be on the parent to make sure their child knows what to do if they come home and things are not as they expected.

Maybe there is a neighbor's house the child can go to to call their parent, or perhaps they can go home with a friend from the same bus stop and make a call.

It's the parent's job to make sure something feasible is figured out, otherwise they should find different child care arrangements. Bus drivers have enough to do without being turned into childcare providers when parents haven't bothered to prepare themeselves and their child for "what if" scenarios.

Posted by: chelsea16 | October 28, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Parents today need to chill. My mother NEVER met us at the bus stop from first grade on - we walked. The world isn't any more dangerous today (in fact, it's considerably safer) than it was twenty- or thirty-odd years ago, parents are just more pathologically worried. Teach your kid the way home and teach her not to take rides from anyone who doesn't know the password (ours was "hippotamus"). Give her a back up plan if no one is home (ours was to go to one of our neighbors). If the bus stop is too far away, then you should have words with the school, but otherwise, their responsibility ends when they drop your child off at the correct bus stop. The schools shouldn't have to incur considerable extra expense so poor little Muffy doesn't have to know what to do when things don't go as planned.

Posted by: burntnorton | October 28, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

We use the word "right" in funny ways.

Children do not have a *right* to ride the bus. A school bus is a service provided by the district -- or not. How they get there is up to the parent/guardian.

NOW start talking about responsibility.

BTW, bus drivers have their hands full operating a multi-ton vehicle, and I'd rather the driver did that while someone else managed the children.

Posted by: cfow1 | October 28, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

I'm surprised that elementary school children are dropped off unsupervised in Montgomery County. In Arlington, children are returned to the school. I usually picked my daughter up, but on one day she had to take the bus. There was a mixup about the day she should take the bus home, and she was put on the bus, and I met her back at school.

Posted by: reader171 | October 28, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

How on earth could it be anyone's responsibility OTHER than the parent/caregiver?! The bus driver has 40 some odd kids on that bus. His/her job is to get the kids from school to their bus stop safely. It's the parent's job to have plans and back up plans and back up back up plans. Teach little Suzy that if mommy isn't at the bus stop, she should go home with Billy's mommy. Be sure that Billy's parents have ALL the appropriate contact info. If Suzy is too young to understand this - or Billy's mommy too irresponsible to handle an extra kid - the Suzy shouldn't ride the bus. Mommy will just have to pick her up at school every day. That way there will be someone there to take care of Suzy should mommy be in a car accident. Parents - take responsibility for your kids!!!!!

Posted by: KatyMom13 | October 28, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

The school bus policy is correct but perhaps not complete. If parents want the policy to include returning a child to school if no caregiver is present at the bus stop, then they need to be willing to put in the time and money, i.e. more taxes, to change the policy to provide for supervision for the child once the child is returned to school. In addition, the costs of bus delays due to non-supervised stops, will surely cost as well. Parents assume too much in today's world. Schools and school systems are not the same schools and systems we grew up in.

Posted by: cmiller1470 | October 28, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

One more note on the Arlington policy. I actually wish the driver had let my daughter off the bus at her stop. Another parent we know was already there to get her children. And - before anyone gets on a high horse about who pays for care at school - my daughter was enrolled in extended day and the bus ride was an exception.

Posted by: reader171 | October 28, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Make the kids wards of the state.
Then parent can go do their thing

Posted by: Warthog104 | October 28, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

who's willing to have a tax hike so that the schools can afford to hire bus drivers qualified to be responsible for your kids beyond transportation?

we would be, but i bet i'm in the minority.

as a society we simply can't have it both ways. we can't hire minimally paid, minimally trained bus drivers and then expect them to be responsible for our kids.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | October 28, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

WOW am I shocked at the harshness toward parents in so many of these responses! Have you ever dealt with bus service? This is our first year and, let me tell you, things happen. I consider myself a responsible parent. I arrive on time - even early with a book so I won't miss my child.
But check this out - the bus arrived early - I mean 20 minutes ahead of schedule, dumped my 8 year old in a busy parking lot unattended and drove away! I was outraged. When I suggested that he might at least wait until his appointed arrival time before leaving the school told me that "he had had a bad day and just wanted to get home." And that was considered an acceptable response!
Then there was the horror day that there was a car accident on Rock Creek Parkway and I was totally stuck - couldn't get out and couldn't move on...and I see the clock marching to pick up time. Now try to find someone on 20 minutes notice who can be at the bus stop on time. Thank heavens I raised a retiree on my cell phone.
I have a backup...AND my child now has a cell phone. We also have a meeting place in a nearby CVS.
Now I realize I need about 3 backup plans - and someone who can be on standby on 15-20 minutes notice.
Never mind an accident. The daily things of life happen.
It is a scary policy. And yet by MD and DC law it is illegal to leave a child under 13 unattended.
I guess when it comes to cost, it's more important to endanger a child.
Most parents, goodness posters! are not dallying around or looking for "freebie" aftercare. We're reponsible and caring - but we're not even being met halfway.

Posted by: whatsnext | October 28, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

but WHATSNEXT, didn't you know this going into the school year? if you know the rules, then you need to have a plan or you need to drive the kid to school yourself.

if the rules are that the kid gets dropped at the stop regardless, then the driver can't be expected to make exceptions for every mom who has an issue.

(and yes, totally agree that the answer that the driver was having a bad day is ridiculous, but that's what you get from minimum wage)

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | October 28, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the safety issue, I think for many parents (or at least for me) it's not a question of kidnapping, but of cars. Lack of sidewalks, small people, big cars, and distrcted drivers don't mix well.

Posted by: CalBears1 | October 28, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

So Ms. Klein expects each bus driver to carry a list of which children are allowed to walk home alone, which are supposed to be met by a parent/babysitter/sibling/etc., and check that each child has appropriate personage waiting before letting them off the bus? She does realize that A) the bus driver doesn't know each child, B) there are other children waiting to be brought home; C) school is OVER, etc.

I walked home from school alone, in kindergarten, along a busy mainroad. Yes, it was a different time. But seriously - if your child is nervous about a possible emergency-type situation, prepare your child. The school is not responsible for after-school care unless you're signed up and paid up. i understand her concern, but as other posters have said - practice walking home from the bus stop, teach your child which are safe homes to knock on the door, make sure your child knows his/her address and phone number. If you have a specific concern, teach your child to tell the bus driver whatever you need (that mommy said if no one is here to meet her she shouldn't get off the bus, and should ask the bus driver to please call your cell phone, maybe?). It might be an "extra" that the bus driver is willing to do once, or twice, if it's not abused. But don't assume the bus driver knows that your child is not supposed to walk home alone from the bus stop. You're the parent.

Posted by: JHBVA | October 28, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

If a parent leaves their child unattended for any reason, he/she can be arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned for child neglect and possibly other charges. How is it OK for the school to abandon a child on a street corner and assume no responsibility?

Posted by: pwkickice | October 28, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

This all comes down to MONEY, folks.
You want to pay less in taxes. Understood.

That means that school systems have fewer bus drivers performing more routes. The implications of making one bus driver reposnible for knowing and identifying who should pick up each of potentially a hundred children or more - are HUGE. Bus drivers simply have too much on their plates to be checking ID's, or taking a head count and making sure everyone under a given age is 'matched up.'
Sorry to disappoint, but bus service to school is a privilege not enjoyed in most countries, even some advanced economies. If you want personalized service, with bus drivers able to identify the many possible caregivers and checking ID's, be prepared to pay for it.

Posted by: mdennis74 | October 28, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Exactly what does Ms. Klein think the policy should be? As each child gets off the bus is the driver supposed to check an ID of an adult at the bus stop against an approved list? After all, bus drivers and students change, so the driver on a given day may or may not know all the students' parents/nannies, etc. by sight.

It seems that the better option is to have trusted neighbors that the child can turn to, or if it is a multi-child stop, then trusted parents of other students who would notice your absence.

Posted by: jph11 | October 28, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

If the parent cannot take enough interest in the child's life to ensure someone is there to meet them when they get home (if thats what they are concerned about), then perhaps they should put the child up for adoption to parents who DO care...

Posted by: ProveMeWrong | October 28, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I cannot believe the responses here!!! Everyone is just so quick to judge each other. As far as having backup plans for bus stops, I think that is a great idea. But sometimes, not everything that is planned goes the way it's supposed to. Every adult associated with ANY SCHOOL should be willing to take the responsibility on themselves to make sure that every child gets home SAFE.

I do not care how many of you walked home when you were 3, 4 or 5, things happen, things happen in a blink of an eye and we are all responsible for those who cannot take care of themselves. Put yourself in the shoes of a parent whose child was left unsupervised dropped off at a bus stop and the child never made it home that night. The last supposed responsible person to see that child was the bus driver. If I were that driver I would not want that on my conscience.

STOP JUDGING each other and do the right thing. NOT ONE CHILD SHOULD EVER BE LEFT.

And for all you posters saying that it comes down to taxes and parents wanting something for free: try to look at this way. For every parent working to support their families is one more family that is not living off of your tax money.

I would much rather pay taxes to fund our education system and make it better than I would to fund many of the corrupt groups and politicians strolling around DC these days. And just think of this: If we funded our education system correctly we would probably have more kids who could actually speak correct english and more kids who are more likely to find and keep jobs and (gasp!!) they would have kids who do the same. It's a win/win all around. And it starts with you, me and the bus driver......

Posted by: tecatesdream | October 28, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Its amazing to me to see people almost expecting other to pitch in and help.

yes its nice to expect it, but as a parent that is the last thing I would rely on.

Obviously things happen... Which is why the child is the PARENTS responsibility first. If they cant make it, its the parents responsibility to have a backup plan. Whether or not that is working out plans with the school or bus driver themselves is entirely up to the parent...

Stop forcing the rest of the self-sufficient society around you under your umbrella of excuses.

You cant handle it? Again, adoption services are there for use...

Posted by: ProveMeWrong | October 28, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Three years ago my Kindergartener had a half day near the beginning of school on MoCo, and I had a schedule given out in the summer that didn't include half days, so I missed the bus. I felt HORRIBLE, but back then the bus driver would take the kid back to school. They called me and I picked him up. I had a lot of guilt, but at least he was safe. They need to go back to this policy for the SAFETY of the kids. This is the #1 priority.

Posted by: NewzJunkie | October 28, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

to ProveMeWrong -- you must be a democrat

Posted by: tecatesdream | October 28, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Though my son has long since been in elementary school, my husband and I scraped together enough money to have our son safely ensconced in the before and after-care program! That was the best money we ever spent. He was engaged and safe!

Posted by: MommyD | October 28, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Growing up in this area, I remember vividly being dropped off at the bus stop after kindergarten without a "designated" adult to pick me up other than my mother. If my mother wasn't there, I would freak out, but there was always another parent there to help out and wait for my mom with me. In fact, that was the drill for all of the moms at the bus stop-- they all helped each other out.

I find it appalling that parents now want the schools to do what parents are supposed to do. Schools are supposed to provide an education for our kids, not to raise or protect kids outside of the school system. Moreover, why aren't parents helping each other out? What happened to these parents that they can't socially interact to protect each other and each others kids? Don't you all have to wait at the same bus stop? Can't you exchange cell numbers in case something happens?

We all have the moral responsibility to help each other out when it comes to protecting and raising our children. Ms. Klein is wrong-- this system has been in place for decades and it has worked because the parents knew they had to be responsible for their kids the moment their child leaves school and they were willing, if not eager, to know the parents of the kids their kids were riding the bus with and to build a social network in the neighborhood.

What needs to change regarding this is the parents and not the schools. The more we have the schools do, the less the parents will do and the worse off their kids will be. Your parents did it for you, you can do it for your own kids.

Posted by: tizinu | October 28, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

The #1 priority is the safety of the kids being picked up at the scheduled bus stop or at the school itself by the parent. My God, these parents are so lazy and irresponsible that they would trust their kids' safety to a bus driver. You had the children, you pick them up yourselves. End of story. Jeez people are so lazy these days, and then have the gall to complain about it when others refuse to cooperate in a matter that is clearly a parent's own concern!

Posted by: buzziea | October 28, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

It is your responsibility as a parent to teach your child how to find their way home in case of an emergency.
If your child is not mature enough to learn this, they shouldn't be on their own on the bus.
Have a back up plan with other parents who are picking their kids up at the bus stop. Offer to trade off days with them. This isn't hard people.

Posted by: NanFan56 | October 28, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

We are not talking about a daily occurrence, or an abrogation of parental responsibility here. We are talking about unusual situations, emergencies and the responsibility we have as human beings and community members to each other. Common sense tells me that if a 5-year-old child gets off the bus alone with no adult nearby, the bus driver would ask if the kid could get home ok, and help them out if they can't. Children often panic when faced with unfamiliar situations, even when they have been told what to do. No, the bus driver isn't responsible for every kid, but let's inject a little compassion and common sense here.

Posted by: JBBerry | October 28, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Here's what I don't understand...

If your kid is being let off at the bus stop, why do they not know how to get home, even if they are in kindergarten?

The way I see it, parents need to let their kids roam the neighborhood so they aren't lost 1-2 blocks from home and the school needs to plan stops better so kids don't have to walk too far. (And by 'roam the neighborhood' I mean play kickball, climb trees and play outside to be active and healthy. Even the city kids on my street have roller skates and bikes and run around.)

Perhaps everyone should walk around their neighborhood with their kids or let their kids play outside so that this becomes a non-issue.

I can't think of a bigger pain in the neck than driving home to meet your kid, being a few minutes late and then finding our your kid is back at school or the bus depot. Then you have to hop back in your car and fight rush hour traffic to go get them.

What is wrong with people that they can't teach their kid to be self-sufficient? These disaster scenarios commenters are leaving are silly.

If you lose a house key, go to a trusted neighbor's house. If you set the toaster oven on fire while making a snack, grab the baking soda and put the fire out. Cut yourself? Wash it off and get a band aid.

Little kids really do know what to do if you bother to teach them what to do.

If Ms Klein doesn't have the time or sense to teach her kids these things, she ought to try something like Girl/Boy Scouts where some other adult can teach her kid what to do when life happens to them. (First Aid, cook something out of the pantry, etc.)

Bus drivers don't have the time to check a parents' ID, custody battle status of divorcing parents, etc to know who should be meeting a kid at a bus stop or not. If a parent has a problem, they should try to resolve the problem themselves. I really don't think bus drivers should be acting in loco parentis, the CDL should be enough, or else they'll start asking for more money.

Posted by: brcmapgirl | October 28, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

"And yet by MD and DC law it is illegal to leave a child under 13 unattended."
Posted by: whatsnext | October 28, 2009

-There is no law stating that a child under 13 can not be left alone in a dwelling in D.C. and MD. Maryland and Illinois are the only 2 states that have a GUIDELINE for when children can be left alone and that age is 8.

Posted by: Soguns1 | October 28, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

"I really don't think bus drivers should be acting in loco parentis,"
Posted by: brcmapgirl | October 28, 2009 3:33 PM
-I couldn't agree with this statement anymore.
I am also wondering what happens when the bus driver is a different one from the usual for those who think that a bus driver have the responsibility to ensure children are met with adult when dropped off. Have them keep an approved pick-ip list and check every adults' ID?

Posted by: Soguns1 | October 28, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I walked about two blocks to & from school in first & second grades, and about that far to & from the bus in third grade. Once when I missed the bus from school in third grade, I walked several miles back home, through some reasonably crowded city streets before getting back to my neighborhood.

Certainly not every kid can be trusted to do this, and not every neighborhood is conducive to this, and times are different now. But it seems strange to expect that the school should divert resources to provide (free of charge) chauffeur/valet/babysitting service for the families who have the need of such amenities.

Posted by: bobsewell | October 28, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

If you chose to have your child, you have to be responsible for that child. Yes, that means coming up with a backup plan in case your babysitter doesn't show up.

Schools are not babysitters.

Posted by: mesaverde1 | October 28, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Hi all, I am Ms. Klein. I will try to respond to all these comments as soon as I can. I would just like to clarify one thing, however. As an attorney for abused and neglected children, I know that it is, in fact, the law in Maryland that a child may not be left alone until he or she is 8 - not 13, and it's not a "guideline." However, the law is a little tricky - it says "in a locked vehicle or dwelling," so, technically, dumping her by the side of the road is kosher. But, again, both as a mother and a child welfare attorney, who has seen the best and the worst the system has to offer - I would much rather my child end up at the Department of Social Services in emergency foster care, with me being prosecuted for endangering the welfare of a minor, than wandering around the neighborhood, knocking at doors of neighbors that might or might not be home, and might or might not be trustworthy, or, worse, bleeding to death in that road. As I'm sure is no surprise, I do side with the readers who felt the best interests of the child, rather than the parents' or the State's rights and responsibilities, is paramount. Good night.

Posted by: moolanie | October 28, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

Interesting. My six year old goes to aftercare, but occasionally if I am home he will take the bus. He gets off the bus himself and walks to our house. It never occurred to me that the bus driver would think anything of it.
I get sick of the 'times have changed' crap. They HAVE changed, alright, they are safer. There are less stranger abductions now than there were when we were kids.

Posted by: 1Reader | October 28, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

It's amazing how many people who don't seem to have children of their own will make such negative, judgemental comments on the parenting skills of others. Most of the comments here seem to be made by people who haven't been near a school bus in many years and know nothing about accepting responsibility for another person.

Posted by: giotto | October 28, 2009 11:02 PM | Report abuse

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