With PTAs Like These…

Hi Readers — As the school year gears up and we are talking about how great it is when kids walk to school, here’s a “real world” note I just got from one guy. Sigh:

My children’s  school has no school buses, and at our first PTA meeting one parent was being praised for setting up a private school bus, paid for by the parents.

I mentioned that since everyone is close enough to walk, that’s what we should be focusing on, getting more children to walk, but everyone comes up with the “what if?” arguments.

To which I replied, “What if?” is the greatest two-word idea killer of all time. To which my correspondent replied:

Even sadder was when I was showing actual statistics to back up my arguments that walking is much safer than driving, the head of the PTA stated: “Statistics mean nothing when it comes to the safety of my child.” To which everyone applauded.

Argh. Never said it would be easy. If any of you can think of a way to sway parental minds closed to health, safety, common sense, environmentalism and a belief in outdoor time for kids, please help this guy with some good arguments for the next PTA debacle. Er, meeting. — Lenore

73 Responses

  1. I plan to bring up free-ranging at my son’s first PTA meeting and will not accept any BS answers. For example, my response to this moron at the PTA woudl have been, “Oh, so you’re OK with putting your child at serious risk for no good reason?”

  2. Won’t happen. When you find a mind that closed, not even the proverbial crowbar is going to make a difference.

    I would suggest a response along the lines of “You’re certainly welcome to your opinion Mdme Chairman and I know you’ll appreciate the private bus that Mrs. Smith has organized for some students. I would like to organize a meeting for the parents who are concerned about the increased rates of childhood obesity and would like to have their students walk. Perhaps we can arrange a walking school bus…etc etc etc”.

    It might get the point across, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. The best you can probably do is provide guidance for those PTA parents who are a little more open minded.

  3. Our school very much encourages kids to walk. Most all kids live in walking distance and the parking and drop-off areas are a madhouse! So, lots of kids walk on their own or with their parents to school (either one, I think, is a good thing). Might be good to get the school on-board. The reduction of traffic might be a selling point.
    Best,
    Jane
    The Petticoat Polymath -or- Jane-of-all-trades:
    Musings on Disability, Health, Parenting, Politics, and all sorts of other stuff!

  4. As Joette said…closed minds are the worse stubborn kind. Stupid, illogical and unreasonable. And whether they want to see it or not, very detrimental (in this case, to their children).

    I say gather all the sane parents and organize something with them. Why should they have to pay for something that they don’t need. When walking is more economical, safer, fun, and health conscious.

    “Statistics mean nothing when it comes to the safety of my child.” It’s THESE “statistics” that have caused idiots like the person who said this to think like they do. Media, he said/she said stories – “I know a guy, who knows a guy, who’s friends with this woman that it happened to…sort of…but it can happen”, and fear educed notions that has made them ignorantly blind to logic and reason. Which again, is far more dangerous to their children than highly unlikely situations. Because this ignorance DOES affect a child and their development as adults. It’s a guarantee.

    I say to the smart guy, take care of your own and those that support you. Let the dummies dig their own grave.

  5. Some people just can’t handle statistics, so they ignore them. Easier by far for them to go by emotion. Driving must be safer, they do it every day and everywhere!

    As for me, I was being quite entertained this morning seeing people parking almost up to my house a couple blocks from the school to drop their kids off. People ask me why I don’t drive mine to school… that’s why! It would take longer to drive and get back than to walk, plus it’s healthier.

  6. They aren’t willing to accept stats when they are counter to their beliefs but they will cite stats to support their belief. It’s absolutely BS & counterintuitive.

  7. I was taught in selling a product or an idea is that people are more impressed with the height of your enthusiasm than the depth of your knowledge. That explains why fear sells.
    This link about political discourse also applies to anytime that facts are presented.
    http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/07/11/how_facts_backfire/?page=full

    An emotional statement may have a better result even if the hook is to use humor such inquiring about keeping the kids safe from bigfoot.
    Better yet, we need to keep the parents safe from believing everything they hear on TV from Nancy DisGrace or on CSI:Ramsdale.

  8. How about the “safety in numbers” argument? If all the kids walked to school there would be packs of kids, therefore lessening the chance of whatever “boogeyman” fear is out there. Kids also might get to know their neighbors and big kid/little kid friendships might actually form. And my favorite argument for kids walking: more free time for me!

    Maybe you can knock them with a little green guilt. Like how that bus burns up fossil fuels (unless that private bus is a veggie bus!) and kids need exercise to keep them healthy in both body and mind.

    I like Lenore’s rant from a few weeks ago about how we can’t live our lives based on worrying about miniscule chances of extremely rare but horrible things happening and allowing these improbable risks to rule our world.

    Women get pregnant knowing there are risks involved, people drive cars, fly on airplanes, go swimming, bungee jump and eat raw fish. Heck, my kids sometimes go outside with out sunscreen (I know I’m a total rebel).

    And I’m with the posters above about avoiding the traffic jam at school at all cost. My kids bike and walk to school NO MATTER WHAT. They all get excited to plod through that first snowfall (which actually is much SAFER than cars/buses on slippery roads). My kids LOVE raincoats and umbrellas because to kids IT IS FUN!! My daughter broke her foot two years ago and I had to drive her for five weeks – I thought I was going to slit my wrists dealing with that traffic nonsense. I cannot imagine what those moms are smoking that willingly sit and waste 30 minutes, 2x a day (yep that’s five hours a week) burning up gas in their cars, idling in the pick up line. No thanks.

  9. Hi!

    I’m so sorry to hear this. Perhaps this product is a solution:

    http://www.walkodile.com

    The teacher who invented it (from NE Scotland) because she was so terrified of an accident happening when she took children off-site.

    It does raise some strong feelings however, about whether this product is, and should be, necessary. I did blog about it…to give you an idea…
    http://creativestarlearning.blogspot.com/2009/09/walkodiles.html

  10. Honestly, my what if in response to their what if would be: “what if the bus driver runs a red light.” You can come up with what ifs for both sides of virtually any argument. And it seems as though we hear about bus crashes at least as often as child abductions.

    Then I would throw around some motor vehicle accident statistics and ask if perhaps those stats mean anything to the safety of their children.

    Gah!

  11. At the risk of being juvenile (I sure wouldn’t want to do that), has anyone else noticed that PTA doesn’t have to mean parent-teacher association? It can also stand for “{P}ain in {T}he {A}…”

    Just saying.

  12. My 7 year old son asks a lot of “what ifs.” I only wish adults could ask the same kind of “what if…” questions. Indeed, what if, from a 7 yr old’s perspective…

    “What if I drank the biggest bottle of olive oil and then I grew to be 3000 years old and then I grew to be 6000 years old and I was so tall that I took the Empire State Building to be my walking stick and I grew a beard that went around the world 3 times and then I burped and it was so big that it crushed the earth and then I went back to being 7 again?”

    The world would be a lot more fun if we thought like kids every once in a while instead of worrying about every thing that could go wrong. “What if” we started thinking about all the things that go right? The world would be a much happier place!

    check out the full blog post at

    http://www.halffullpinkmartini.com/2010/04/what-if.html

  13. And the ironic part of the story is that my children’s school is on SESAME STREET. You would think PTA members would be more apt to listen to reason from a school with that address, but maybe it’s just naive wishful thinking on my part.

  14. Why don’t you suggest that to save time and money for the school district, they drop math out of the curriculum? Because clearly the parents have no interest in mathematical reality if they choose to ignore statistics. Drop science out while you’re at it.

  15. The moment a person forms a theory, his imagination sees in every object only the traits which favor that theory.
    -Thomas Jefferson

  16. As I get older I become more and more convinced that we live in the United States of Stupid. Just look at all the people who voted for John McCain and Barack Obama!

  17. Eldo, political slurs are NOT called for. Nor is trolling. I don’t go around calling all people who voted opposite me “stupid” (at least, not in a mixed group), certainly – and people know I’m somewhat lacking in the manners department at times! If I can manage to keep my fingers off the keyboard, so can you.

    With that said, it’s sadly ironic that these people are ignoring the statistics that would keep their children safer, all in the name of safeTY.

  18. My child’s future school does encourage walking/biking to school. Even has a bike to school week. Sadly, unless I’m riding/walking with her, she can’t do it. She needs to simultaneously navigate traffic for the hospital (incredibly distracted drivers, ambulances) and a major 5 lane road. Maybe by 5th grade. Hopefully, she can make a friend in our neighborhood that bikes and I can send her along too.

  19. My town’s school district decided to cancel mandatory busing for any student who lives less than a mile from school. Not for health reasons, but because the district will save $400,000 a year that will be used for more important things like hiring more teachers and upgrading much needed technology for schools in less affluent neighborhoods.

    The district sent letters to parents telling them of the plan and included a website that provided safe walking routes. So far I haven’t heard or read about any complaints to the plan. Hopefully, it won’t mean more parents dropping kids off and picking them up once the school year begins. Though I fear it might.

  20. Has this PTA ever considered that some parents might not have the money for this school bus?

  21. Instead of a private bus and bus route, why not set up a walk route, with one or two adults picking up all or 1/2 of the children? i cannot imagine that would cost nearly as much as a driver, a bus and insurance.

  22. The replies have all been thrown around on this Web site, so they’re old hat to most of us, but we need to be ready to dust them off and remember that for most people, they are brand new.

    Consider the possibility of requiring all children to wear protective helmets at all times, in case of falling comets. Consider lead shielding in the windows in case of flying frozen chickens. Why do we reject these safety devices, that could literally save the lives of our children? Because the accidents they are designed to prevent, though horrific, are TOO IMPROBABLE TO WORRY ABOUT. And also, because the safety measures themselves are too intrusive and draconian.

    Once you admit that–about anything whatsoever–then we have dispensed with the idea that “any safety precaution is worth any price,” and we are ready to have a real conversation about what accidents are actually likely enough to take measures to prevent.

  23. As I have said, logic jumps out the window when emotion walks in the door.

    Emotion is visceral. It is primitive. It is hardwired into our brains in a way logic can never hope to be.

  24. walking to school helps stress, heart rate and respiratory rates http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=642051

  25. “Statistics mean nothing when it comes to the safety of my child.” And this is said in a school!

    The only real way to protest this kind of thing is to use your parental right to opt out: “Very nice bus, but my children can walk. By the way, yours could use a little exercise, too.”

    Yep, I get nasty like that.

  26. We live in a big city. My son’s school is about a 15-minute walk away. In this country, pedestrians do not have the right of way. Still, I would walk with my son to school, if I could. But, b/c of timing with his sister’s school, it’s easier for him to take a bus. Plus, he loves the bus and visiting with all his friends. I think it’s admirable to encourage walking and to organize group walking. I applaud this parent’s efforts. But, I certainly don’t agree with other commenters who are so judgemental. Every family’s situation is different. For us, it’s not a safety issue, but a convenience issue. Why bother mocking another family’s decisions? It shouldn’t impact the way you raise your kids.

  27. @Lori – agree completely with you. My son loves his bus – my daughter is now in a situation where she’ll be at a high school close to a nearby college, downtown, restaurants, coffee shops, etc. – and we fully expect her to take care of herself in some ways – after school and before sports practice – walk, bus, whatever. My son is in kindergarten, however, and, like I said, loves the bus -though we sometimes drop him off too (we are pretty far from his school) and even pick up if he wants to do an afterschool program. I think walking is great – walk everywhere myself with the kids, but… like you said – no need to be so judgmental – every family has different needs – mocking others doesn’t make the point any better – and neither does suggesting dropping math – as if it were the same type of decision as to bus or not to bus. Further, some kids with asthma, cerebral palsy and other issues common to mainstream classrooms may benefit from, at least, the option to bus – without a “special” option for them (i.e. they can travel with the other kids). Also, safety is never something that should be ignored either – with walking, busing – whatever. Every child is different and reacts differently to being told to look both ways before crossing streets, for ex – being flippant about solutions that are offered with good intentions is not productive – ever.

  28. @Eric S: “I know a guy who knows a guy…” If I ever hear that, I’m hoping I remember this so I can quote it back at them, because it’s just as believable (outside the realm of the movie, that is): “My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious.”

    Or I could just take the shortcut and laugh. I figure if they’re going to be emotional, I can be, too.🙂

    @Diane: *Mandatory* busing? I can understand assuming that kids will be riding unless told otherwise (and reserving spaces for them accordingly), but mandatory?

  29. I’ve been on my elementary and middle school PTO boards. One thing you may wish to try is a talk with the principal. They don’t always agree with the PTO. If it’s anything like my elementary school, the drivers make it terribly unsafe. It’s located in a very residential neighborhood with very small streets. They had to limit parking to one side of the street, otherwise cars could not pass through. If you can sell the idea of walking as safer to the principal you may have some luck. Is there room for a bus to safely unload kids? Will it have to turn around or back up? Just a few things to think about.

  30. @Joette – “childhood obesity and would like to have their students walk.” – Sorry but there’s no correlation between the two (despite what Big Media tells you). Eliminating sugary beverages in your child’s diet is the best way to prevent childhood obesity.

    @Diane – “included a website that provided safe walking routes.” – wow, that’s hysterical. I’d personally go figure out what the best path is myself, not rely on a website.

    In general, I so hate those “What if”s?” from the main post. Your child has to explore and experience the world, not be protected from it.

  31. Safety, school transit wise, from safest to least safe would be Bus, Walking, Biking, Vehicle (I have statistics for all but biking, but I know biking has more head injuries than walking, so I guesstimated). Granted any of these used with appropriate safety precautions is ridiculously safe. School buses are dangerous like strangers are dangerous- as in, they aren’t. Walking is pretty darn safe if you obey posted signs and avoiding trying to gain roadkill status. Most pedestrians who die do so illegally crossing through busy intersections, often on drugs or alcohol. You know when you see that teenager hopping across a 6 lane highway to get a big mac? It’s those people who tend to die.

    I would LOVE for them to expand walking buses/walkpools. I think they’re genius. Little kids get some structure to the walking, bigger kids get to help out, and an adult or two get some exercise. Walking a mile to and from school as a kid (I started at 11) really improved my health and well being, which really is priceless.

  32. So… statistics about your child’s actual safety mean nothing when it comes to your child’s safety? [headdesk]

    You know, when you get down to it, it actually has nothing whatsoever to do with their children’s safety. What it has everything to do with is the parents’ emotional comfort. That’s what’s important; actual safety is a very distant second.

    Angie

  33. That was an interesting link that Dot Khan posted. Didn’t read it all, but the hypothesis is, if people have an idea about something and you present them with facts to the contrary, they dig in their heels (In defense of their own belief). So a full frontal attack — regardless of being armed with the truth — is futile. Just get on doing your own thing, and let your child walk to school.

    Maybe if the other parents see your child arrive at school hale and healthy, with nothing more than the flush of good fresh air on his or her cheeks to tell the tale, they’ll reconsider. If you push the issue too hard now, though, you leave little room for them to do an about-face, gracefully, later on.

  34. Get a cop. I’ve posted this before, but when we had several events involving strangers taking pictures of the kids on the playground, the principal brought in the cop responsible for the patrol area where the school is located. During the discussion he brought up that it wasn’t illegal to take pictures in a public space, after which many parents got up in arms about installing a privacy fence. The cop matter-of-factly told us that the fence wouldn’t stop the behavior, made his job more difficult, and was a waste of money. He stunned people.

    He also slammed our expensive security door that requires people to buzz in and told us that walking to school was great.

    I like the walking bus idea and I bet you could get a cop to support you on that. Although if you live in such a fearful place, you might want to have a conversation with your chosen officer of the law before you let him/her spout opinions. Maybe it’s just where I live, but I’ve found our police force to be pretty rational and mostly on the side of getting members of the community to interact in the interest of keeping us all a little safer. That translates to an easier job for the police, if a less sensational one.

  35. Statistics mean nothing……Wow! Why don’t these people wear lightning protective clothing, or better yet, stay in their house….

  36. @King Krak: Oh, undoubtedly. But the Chair of the PTA has proven herself to be a victim of what the mass media has to say and I’m not above playing on that to get a little Free Range walking organized. 😀

  37. “Statistics mean nothing when it comes to the safety of my child.” It’s a popular sentiment.

    The day we ignore facts, science and statistics and let superstition, fear, and demagoguery (crowd logic) rule our decisions about child safety is the day that we abdicate our responsibility to raise and care for our children in their own best interest, rather than for our own selfish motivations.

  38. What if the bus crashes? What if there’s an accident? What if a truck runs over kids waiting for the bus? What if an airplane crashes in the street? What if the bus driver is drunk? If you put your kids on the bus, they could DIE!

    Be safe, walk instead.

  39. Unfortunately I don’t live within walking distance to my elementary school, but I will be letting my 2nd grader walk home from the bus stop…alone. When I make this statement out loud, people look at me strange, but keep quiet. I prefice it with I refuse to be one of ‘those moms’ whose afraid to let her kid go to the bathroom by himself.
    The what if question should be: What if we could change the collective consciousness of all of the ambulophobe’s so that riding the bus is fear laden and wrong?

  40. Love the “Don’t confuse me with the facts” response of the PTA. Priceless.

  41. Most pedesterian deaths are adult males walking Friday and Saturday night.

    With these parents you’d probably get more response with a impassioned speech about your carbon footprint. Than with facts.

  42. @King Krak — “@Joette – “childhood obesity and would like to have their students walk.” – Sorry but there’s no correlation between the two (despite what Big Media tells you). Eliminating sugary beverages in your child’s diet is the best way to prevent childhood obesity.”

    Okay, then change the word from “obesity” to “health” and your quibble evaporates. Even if she’s technically wrong on the “obesity” detail, it’s still healthier, so there’s no need to undermine the point to protect a hobbyhorse.

    And BTW, there probably is a correlation, but there many not be a causation.

  43. “Further, some kids with asthma, cerebral palsy and other issues common to mainstream classrooms may benefit from, at least, the option to bus – without a “special” option for them (i.e. they can travel with the other kids).”

    Okay so now we have to bus everyone to cover the possibility that some kid with asthma so severe that a short walk is impossible might feel left out because he can’t walk? I guess we need to cancel PE, recess and band (can’t blow in an instument with that serious asthma) for the entire school too. I’m all for making reasonable accomondations for those with disabilities but we don’t have to change everyone’s life to make sure that people who are different (not better or worse but different) don’t ever feel slightly different. My child has an allergy to the adhesive on band-aids and she LOVES band-aids with passion. I suppose that I should now insist that her classroom be a band-aid free zone since she is sad because she can’t have them.

  44. Donna,

    I so much agree. We are these days so trying to not make anyone feel left out that we have come to ridiculous measures to prevent someone from feeling different.

    We are not allowed to greet on holidays like Christmas with what it is. It needs to be neutralized.

    We are preventing all kids from doing normal things like walk to school because there might be some that cannot walk dur to disabilities.

    We do not let parents bring in home baked goods, just because we do not know the ingredient list well enough. And prefer highly processed, but packaged and labelled food instead.

    We limit grades to A and B, because some kids might feel stupid or unaccomplished with a C, D, or F.

    We ban Halloween in certain areas, because it is not what all families celebrate, some might get offended, some kids are too scared, and of course all those predators are just out there to get you.

    We force kids to write Valentine cards to everyone in the class, because, well, some kids might not get any card…

    We ban “best friends” because some kids might feel left out. Everybody must be an equal friend.

    With all these equalization and undifferentiation of people and their individuality we are the social equivalent of communism. Not everyone is equal. Different religion are fine. Different opinions are fine. Not everyone can be a manager, why should everyone get an A in school? Some people learn faster than others, others learn differently. That is all fine.

    Tolerance is not hiding and ignoring all differences. Tolerances is to acknowledge that people are different and appreciate those for who they are.

    How can kids learn to be tolerant and that different belief systems exist if nobody teaches them what these differences are and that it is acceptable to be different?

    ???

  45. “You know, when you get down to it, it actually has nothing whatsoever to do with their children’s safety. What it has everything to do with is the parents’ emotional comfort.”

    That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. And when it comes to kids, emotions run VERY high.

    I have a friend who is a very smart, well-educated, reasonable person….on most subjects. But when it comes to her kids, she is Mama Bear personified. The kids (ages 5 and 10) are not even allowed to play outside in their own backyard unsupervised because of her fear that “anything can happen.” You can feed her all the stats and reality you want, but in the end, it won’t make a damn bit of difference because for her the emotional comfort of her belief that she is protecting her kids from harm farm outweighs any statistics.

    And….that’s okay. I disagree with her, but I accept it’s a waste of time to change her mind. And I also think it’s a waste of time in this case to change the head of the PTA’s mind. However, surely there are other parents in the district who like the idea of walking to school (or cannot afford a private bus service). It may be more feasible to start your own organization that promotes walking to school.

    @ Lori, I agree. I think walking to school is great, but there may be valid reasons why kids don’t such as distance or traffic safety.

  46. @Larry…LOL!! I guess these days it does mean [P]ain in [T]he [A]ss.

    It’s quite baffling to know there are kids (ones I know) who are smarter and logical and less insecure than a group of adults and teachers.

    These “grown ups” keep talking about making their children safe, it’s for their children. Who are they trying to kid? Their decisions are primarily to quell THEIR OWN fears, and less to do with their kids. Plain and simple. I can almost guarantee that their kids aren’t worried at all. Unless they are worrying because their parents worry. Which again, falls on the parents, not “dangers” in society. So wouldn’t it be logical to say, one of the most (if not the most) dangerous thing for a child is an ignorant, fearful, insecure parent(s)? Hmmmm

  47. @Lori and Sherri: We aren’t mocking the decision to use a school bus to transport kids to school. Yes, this is probably more convenient to some families. There is nothing wrong with doing this. What we ARE “mocking” is their PRIMARY reasoning behind pooling in parents funds for a school bus…which is FEAR. Fear of this and that, and everything under the sun. We mock the contradictory reasoning caused by that fear. ie. fear of something happening to their children if they walk, but not fear for their children riding in a 3 ton schooi bus made of steel, that doesn’t have the stopping and maneuvering capabilities of a normal car. Is the bus driver competent? I’ve heard of enough school bus tragedies to know that it’s not necessarily safer to ride on a bus than it is to walk. At least when a child is walking, with the smarts and knowledge of walking across the street, they are in control of themselves. In a bus, they are pretty much stuck in there, putting their lives in the hands of the driver. Which I might add is only human and can easily make poor judgment like anyone else.

    These are legit concerns. But because it’s less of an inconvenience for the parents to look at the walking fear than the bus or car fear, they choose to ignore ALL possible dangers to their children. Making the statement “Statistics mean nothing when it comes to the safety of my child.” completely contradictory and ignorant. To me, that’s mock worthy. lol

  48. Hi Lenore,
    It’s been a while since I’ve visited your wonderful blog. I am a former helicopter parent migrating towards more free range, but within my own comfort zone. Perhaps because I only have one child….hard to go all the way! Not that I am insinuating that parents with more than one child don’t worry equally about each one…it’s just that I only have one and if something happend to him, I’d have “gult) no children!
    I’ve been wanting to bring up a comment made by a parent in one of your (very enlightening) PTA meetings I attended. It kind of made me concerned about false perceptions and weird ideologies that really have no place in today’s society. A parent stood up and said to you “well, you have boys so maybe that’s why you can be so free range, do you think you’d be with girls”. That comment assumes there is something more to worry about with girls than boys, like females are somhow so physically and emotionally handicapped they could not make it in this world without constant protection, any more than boys. I know one thing….if my only child was a girl I’d be likely far less worried, as the overall system seems to hold an unnecessary protective shield over girls/women more so than boys/men in discrimatory fashion. Just one example, requiring boys at 18 to register for Selective Service and not girls. Very much gender discrimination. I know this is currently being challenged and my cange to be less antiquated, but nobody hsould be required to do that regardless of gender) Anhow, there is nothing that could happen to a daughter that couldn’t happen to a son (abduction, rape/molestation etc). The point is, we ALL need to stop worrying so much about everything and the gender of our children should not be a factor. Being a helicopter parent to a girl any more than a boy would only likley serve to make her feel like she can’t do anything a boy can do i life, career etc.

  49. @ DMT and Lori – I agree that there may be valid reasons why some parents don’t want their kids to walk. As I said, my child will not be walking to elementary school for several reasons. However, that was not the point of this post. Lenore was not saying that every child, even those who travel long distances or over truly unsafe terrain, must walk to school. The issue is that the parent in question is opposed to anybody walking to school – to the point of arranging a private bus service for kids who don’t live too far to walk – for the same crazy reasons of safety that make them not let their children play outside in their own yards.

    Since one of my bus drivers was pulled over for speeding more than once while kids were on the bus and was eventually fired for being convicted of DUI (not in the bus but I often wondered), I’m certainly not convinced that buses are actually safer than walking.

  50. oops, forgot to menton the bus vs walking thing. As a strong environmentalist, and strong advocate of physical activity, I really think there is great merit to the walking to school thing….buses are very dangerous in more ways than one. Exhaust fumes (phew!), kids getting out and having irresponsible drivers (those non-parents out there rushing to work for instance and not obeying the law to STOP when that bus sign comes out. Its funny…..my only child will be in second grade this year, and I have not let him walk (by himself) to school yet. I walk with him as often as I can. But it not so much him I don’t trust…..its those crazy drivers that don’t even stop at yellow crossings. So yes, there is legit worry over walking…..But there are lots of good points on here about whether we can trust the bust drivers. I rode to school in a bus as a child, and remember some crazy driving habits of those bus drivers. One time on the way to school (OK I was in college but still a kid) the bus driver whipped around a hairpin curve, skidded on the ice and nearly went off a cliff that would have sent every 18-22 y/o kid to their death. I went to MCLA in Massachusetts, it was scary as hell. Restaurant owner came running out screaming at the bus driver.

  51. To Sherri, I don’t think anyone is ignoring the plights of individuals. yes, some kids physically can’t walk to school. Yes, there are many cases where it’s impractical for a kid to walk to school. And yes, there are cases where it’s even dangerous. No one is arguing against individual cases because we all realizes things are different. There are many instances I’ve seen where I full-on support bussing and even driving kids to school. The school I last taught at had a little thing called differences. Due to the school boundaries, many kids were offered bussing by the district. Knowing the extent of the boundaries, bussing was a great idea. They learned which budded were theirs, they interacted with other grades, excellent. BUT this bussing was only for such-n-such areas. The rest of the kids could be driven to school or even do something dangerous like walk. And many kids did this very thing with nothing exciting ever happening as they gathered with friends/siblings and trotted off. We also had crossing guards at busy streets. I highly support crossing guards.

    I’d probably retaliate with something charged like what they would do after striking down another kid as they careened out of the ovecrowded parking lot.

    I would much rather walk on a snowy day than drive. Nothing more deadly than driving in the snow. Frankly, the worst case scenario from slipping on ice would require a hospital, but probably not have the same impact as being in a metal deathtrap would. How’s that for risks?

    Bring up the problem of crowds, too many cars, and busy traffic. Mention that mothers driving kids have actually struck other kids. How do they plan on car/bus safety?

  52. @ Donna, I got the point of Lenore’s post. I read it pretty carefully and understood what she meant.

    MY point was directed at those people who are making judgmental comments (or who will) about those of us whose children don’t walk to school, as if we are all in the same group of parents who are too scared to let our kids walk. My issue with my kid walkig is distance and traffic safety. Perhaps some of the parents who arranged for this bus service are in the same category.

  53. DMT,

    you are making excuses for other parents that you do not know anything about. If you think that your kid is too unsafe to walk, your decision, but do not extrapolate to what other parents might be thinking or what there motives might be.

    The point being here is that there is no reason that other kids have to drive, too, just because some parents have good reasons for the kids not to walk.

    It is all about the “one fits all” approach that makes this story so ridiculous and a prime example of what is wrong in our current parenting or school system.

  54. But the note in mention said all kids were within walking distance. I think other safeguards could have been considered before unnecessary busing.

  55. A private school bus? Are these people crazy? Don’t they know that if they hire a bus driver, he’ll turn out to be a horrible child eating monster drawn to the job by the prospect of kidnapping dozens of children at one time?

    Maybe he could respond to insanity by being insane?

  56. @ DMT – Except that it was specifically mentioned that these kids at issue all lived within walking distance of the school so there was no distance issue. Since the school had no buses at all, I would assume that this is indeed true. And, while traffic could still be an issue, the PTA parents specifically stated that kids should not walk because of “what if” scenarios and that statistics of safety don’t matter at all. At no point did the parents bring up any valid reason for kids not to walk to school – traffic, too far, too young, asthma, cerebral palsy. Clearly, this was a case of parents too scared to let their kids walk to school.

    Nobody on this board that I recall has ever stated that every kid in the world should walk to school regardless of the distance, traffic, dangers, convenience, enjoyment of taking a bus. I can’t recall a single person ever expressing judgment about a parent here who believes that their personal school is too far or treacherous for their particular child to walk. I have stated several times that my child will probably never be able to walk to school due to traffic or distance issues and have never once felt judged for that. There has been lot of outrage that the default standard seems to be that the world simply too dangerous for any children at all to walk to school and a desire that kids who live within a safe distance be allowed to walk to school without fear of being snatched but that’s about it.

  57. @King-Krak:

    There may be–as you claim–no correlation between exercise and childhood obesity, but obese children who exercise do become less obese.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20421958

  58. How about suggesting a walking school bus?

    http://www.walkingschoolbus.org/

    Reading this thread, my reaction is that my kids walk to school, so I’m certainly a fan. But whether or not the facts are in your favor, you are not going to get anywhere by acting snarky or superior. I would not listen to people who imply that I make my parenting decisions because I’m too stupid to understand what the “right” way of doing things is and I don’t expect other parents to, either.

  59. Joette,
    I like your walking school bus idea. Perfect use of words, to get a point across. I will be using that in the future, when I talk to some friends that send their kiddos to school.

  60. These parents have the money for a private bus? I would hit them were it hurts, their wallets. Research the actual cost of this adventure and how much it is going to cost each family to have this bus for the entire school year. I bet the number will be off the records and make some people think twice. They may say in the PTA meeting that money is no issue, but latter at home when they are going over their budgets reality might set in.

  61. Here in Auckland, we have 3 different walking school bus routes (Turtle, Centipede and something else) all within 3 blocks of our home. In the mornings and afternoons, kids wait (some with parents) under the bus stop signs (complete with text and animal icons), until the group arrives. Then they all trot off together to the next stop.

    Brilliant, simple, ethical, safe.

    When I was 6, I (and my friends, including an Aspie) walked 1km to school, crossing 4 residential intersections and 1 feeder route (with 12-year-old crossing guards, unless we were late). There is no reason to suggest today’s 6 year olds are any less capable.

  62. While I sort of ignore statistics, it is ridiculous to think that driving is much safer than walking. I just keep thinking of the bus drivers in my area, like the one that side swiped our car. But, for every horror story there are 1,000 great experiences that don’t get passed around. So yea, kids should walk, because it’s too funny to watch parents pick up their kids from the bus stop only to drive them 15 feet home.

  63. @King Krak: There is a correlation between obesity and exercise (specifically, lack of). It’s a fact, if you consume more calories than you burn, those calories turns to added pounds. Doesn’t matter whether your eating sweets or vegetables. You need excercise to balance out. For some kids, sugar can actually help. As it makes them hyper active, running around, being active, thereby burning calories, thereby keeping weight down. Walking is a form of excercise. The more a child gets used to walking, the more they get used to being active.

    Walking is also beneficial in other ways; it helps you to understand your surroundings, enjoy nature, explore what’s around you, absorb things you would miss riding in a car or bus. It helps build confidence, by learning how to cope with things you run into on a walk, or by meeting other kids in the neighborhood.

  64. Just to play a teeny devil’s advocate: There is some good logic and even mathematical reasoning behind the individual situation vs. statistical assumptions argument. I am not saying this parent dismissing statistics was right.

    When you know a lot about something, say a kid and his situation, statistics are not so relevant. (This can be an argument for free-range parenting.) Statistics are useful for rough generalizations and for extrapolating odds from small samples to the population. But you essentially already participate in a high quality, longitudinal study of you and your family and maybe your neighborhood, so you have some good data on your odds of anyone (in that small group) doing something careless. Parents may want to “audition” kids walking or biking to school, or otherwise find ways to ease them into getting to school on their own power. This again gives you individual, high quality data.

    I don’t stop walking because my local ped/bike deaths go up; I know how I do things and that I am no more likely to get hurt than I was last year or the year before. This is not to say that I try to distance myself from the injured people by feeling superior, which is a sentiment I see frequently in my local newspaper forum after a crime or collision. I may somewhat illogically find myself nevertheless being a bit more careful for a while after a particularly nasty collision story, however this wears off eventually and I drop back down to be extra careful but not paranoid. When I start getting nervous about safety, I also use statstics to reassure myself. It is definitely safer not to drive.

    Sometimes I think people take newspaper sound-byte summaries of research studies and statistics too seriously. Correlation is often meaningless

  65. Oops, that last paragraph was supposed to be cut.

    Thanks for the walking school bus link. I will be adding it to my web pages.

  66. “What we ARE “mocking” is their PRIMARY reasoning behind pooling in parents funds for a school bus…which is FEAR.”

    @EricS — I think it’s important for us to lead by example and be advocates, like the mom in this post who is offering an option other than a private bus. She is supporting a great cause and I admire it. I don’t think it’s our job to mock or judge other parents, ever. Making fun of other parents’ attitudes or calling them “ignorant” does nothing to move the free-range ideology forward, in my opinion. Lenore does a great job of advocating for free-range ideals and while I love reading the comments b/c many people provide valuable insights, I think some folks are quite harsh and judgemental.

  67. I think the dad in the anecdote neglect a key aspect of persuasion: interpersonal relationships within a group. Before you introduce a competing idea, you need to assess who will be predisposed against it regardless of what you say.

    Is the initiator of the school bus idea part of the “ruling clique” of the PTA? Or is she generally in their good graces? How many friends does she have in the PTA? Is she one of these people who are so unpleasant to oppose, that everyone else would rather just give way to her?

    Within the entire PTA, how many strong supporters does the school bus idea have? How long has the school bus been in operation? How much money has been spent? Do you pay to use the school bus as a household, or does the PTA fund it?

    Suggesting a new way of doing things always implies that the people who came up with (or agreed to) the status quo are not quite as bright as you are. It sounds like this dad explicitly stated that walking was better than the bus. As soon as discussion began, it was an argument over who was smarter and cared more about children’s health. No wonder no one wanted to listen to him.

    In addition, as far as we can tell from the quotes, he didn’t have a well-thought out proposal. Very young children need supervision, as do ADHD kids who dart into traffic or kids inclined to dawdle or play hooky–not every parent has time to walk to school and back home again before heading to work. Probably they used to drop off their kids before driving to work, and the school bus cut 10 minutes off their commute.

    I think the “statistics mean nothing” comment can be interpreted to mean that they refused to listen to this man’s statistics. After all, they were pleased with the improvements that the bus had made, and they resented his implication that they are dumb, money-wasting, lazy (and probably fat). They used the arguments about safety to counter his argument about the healthiness of walking. Nobody was going to come right out and say, “You’re acting rude and arrogant, so to punish you we will shoot down your idea and hope you never come back to a PTA meeting.”

  68. First of all, I am the vice chair of the PTA. The mother who set up the private bus, which is paid for by the parents ($75/month/child) was set up by the chair. (They even insisted that the driver be female, for as we know all men are potential pedophiles.)

    The chair, while well intentioned, takes every opposition to her ideas, be it about fund raising, safety, busing as a personal attack of her character, which can be difficult to deal with at the best of times.

    Our condominium is at the extreme northern end of the school’s area, and it takes my children about 15 minutes to walk. Our nanny (I am a widowed father) walks with them, and a few other children and adults from the building travel together, possibly about a dozen children in total.

    Instead of dealing with the planning etc. for the bus, such as the approval of the principal needed to park the bus on school grounds, I thought the time and effort would be better spent organizing school walking programs.

  69. A friend of mine is letting her kindergartner ride the bus to school (she lives about a 10-15 minute drive to the school). She did admit to driving to the school on the first day to make sure he made it on the bus…but only did that one day. I have been praising her efforts. Unfortunatly not everyone has. A debate has sparked on facebook about why she should just drive him. Forget the fact that she has another younger child that the driving to and from isnt quite far enough for an effective nap, but who will wake up when they get home and then not go back to sleep. Forget the fact that her son was really looking forward to riding the bus to sit with his friends. I think its sad, and have been trying very hard to keep encouraging her in this, but one of the families actually had thier son post that he likes riding in the car with his parents because he heard kids on the bus are mean…augh is all i can say.( by the way this is all on facebook)

  70. Perhaps a counterexample would be useful: adopt the role of someone with OCD who has to continually wash his/her hands, and ask what the school is doing about germs: are children washing their hands every half hour, do they sterilize the desks every night, etc. When someone dismisses you, say “What is expense when it comes to the safety of our children! Don’t you know that people have died from the flu! Or they could catch a drug-resistant bacteria and start a community-wide pandemic!” (And I apologize if I offend anyone with actual OCD here: my point is that some of this helicopter mentality is just as irrational and phobic as OCD people know their own condition can be.)

    Or if you don’t want to go so far, demand that this “private school bus” never exceed 5 mph, be provided with car seats for every child below the legal weight/height limit, etc.

    In Toledo there’s some controversy about the school district cutting out some bus service, which means some kids will have to cross busy streets on the way to school. Hopefully someone will think of crossing guards, the time-worn solution to the problem.

  71. I’m surprised someone didn’t lambast this parent for their increased “carbon footprint.”

  72. And these people are in charge of monitoring…… education? Sounds like they need a lot more themselves. Very sad.

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