Bus ride to Oliver was trouble waiting to happen, parent recalls

In Grade Seven, I was an Osoyoos honour roll student showing great promise and chose to go to SOSS with the idea that I may get a slightly better education and that would help with my post secondary studies.

I rode the bus from Osoyoos to Oliver every school day for two years and can speak with great experience on the truth of the busing situation that is before us.

The first important thing to note is that when a bus is full of kids, the driver’s most important job is to make sure he/she is focused on the safety of the kids in the bus.

The driver’s eyes should mostly be on the road and the hazards ahead. There is very little time to deal with the kids and the chaos that soon follows.

There are more kids on the bus than in any classroom. This means even if the driver devoted all his time to managing the kids it would be overwhelming. There are no seatbelts so the kids do move around during travel. The seats are tall for crash safety but pose a problem for inappropriate activity.

One of the key reasons this bus trip is different than most is the amount of restless time spent on this trip. I speak from years of experience when i say the actual trip is one hour and five minutes and not the 39 minutes suggested by the untested study by SD53. In any event, here are the disturbing and sad truths about hormonal teenage kids on a long, boring, unsupervised bus ride.

My first taste of the troubles was before day one of this terrible trip. The word had gotten around that a couple of smart kids from Osoyoos were coming to SOSS and the fight threats were out. We were academic kids and not really tough, so the Oliver bullying threats were taken seriously. The worst of the bullies were avoided all day and when the bell rang we rushed to the safety of our bus home to avoid the certain pummeling we were sure to get.

It was ten minutes later that we were faced with the bullies on our own bus. The light abuse left us with bruises on our legs and our middle body. They knew that it would be hard to get into trouble if we were not bruised in the face or our arms.

We chose to tough it out and at some point they would stop. The advantage to bullies being on a long bus ride is they can wait for the right time to act out against you. The seats are tall and offer good visual protection from the driver. If you let your guard down 15 or 20 minutes into the trip to study or do homework, it becomes a great time to strike and call you nasty names, knock your books over and punch you in the legs while you gather you belongings.

This actually happens, folks, and the longer the bus ride the more fidgety and active the kids get. They are uninvolved, unengaged and restless, so trouble is the obvious next step.

There were drug sales and drug use on the ride home as this is again a great safe setting for the “trouble makers” that are all around us. The story is similar again when you don’t buy the drugs or choose not to partake . You are ridiculed and smashed in your seat for being “uncool.”

One might say then get closer to the driver and avoid the problems at the back of the bus. This is not always possible when you need to stay an extra five minutes with your teacher and go over test info, homework, or other important parts of your studies or even simply go to the bathroom. So everyone races for the front seats and there always comes a time when you have to ride the back of the bus.

I witnessed food, schoolwork and even the broom get thrown from the bus. Even if you are a great kid, the peer pressure becomes overwhelming to get involved in questionable activities to avoid being bullied.

The saddest of all the school bus abuse I witnessed on a regular basis was the sexual assaults. Again, its hormonal teenage kids with too much unsupervised time on their hands and some tall seats to hide behind. The inappropriate touching and groping are all too common and with different age groups the abuse can and has happened to boys as well as girls. It’s not an appropriate place to learn about the other sex’s anatomy and most of the stories go completely untold.

Long, unsupervised, overpopulated bus rides are not a good setting for any child. I know I will not have my children subjected to this and parents should really see this for what it actually is.

I was fortunate to switch back to Osoyoos in Grade 10 and enjoy having a school close my home to avoid the terrible bus ride to Oliver. I found the academics to be better in Osoyoos as the school is smaller and no one falls through the cracks. And lastly, I was able to apprentice in Grade 11, and that program has helped me to do what I do very well to this day.

It’s not about course selection for every kid in school. Sometimes its about how you can contribute to your community and how it can contribute to you.

That’s something that is impossible if you can’t be in school in the same town you live.

— Reprinted with permission
from J.F. Launier, Osoyoos