West Virginia Requires Supervision at School Bus Stops

school bus safety


school bus videoVarious states are always trying new experiments in how to improve school bus safety, but a recent initiative in West Virginia has been raising eyebrows. According to their new Policy 4336 (PDF), all children in grades K-3 must be "supervised" at bus stops for both pickup in the morning and drop-off in the afternoon.

The problem of ensuring safety at bus stops is, of course, an important issue. But there are reasons to think this policy, while well-meaning, is probably not fully thought out.

The Issues With West Virginia's New Bus Stop Policy

Most of the problem with Policy 4336 boils down to how vague the wording is: "Parents are responsible for providing supervision for all K-3 students at bus stops until the bus arrives for both pickup and delivery."

What does "providing supervision" actually mean? Does that mean parents themselves have to be at the bus stop? If so, this policy could be a disaster for working parents, particularly single parents. Few people are going to be lucky enough to find a job so forgiving that they'd be allowed to take half an hour off work at 3 p.m. or thereabouts, every day, to pick up their child at the bus stop.

On the other hand, if one takes a more lax reading of "provides supervision," that could potentially include older siblings, neighbors, or perhaps one parent who supervises all the children at a bus stop. That would be much more reasonable, but again, it is unclear.

Also unclear is the "or else" in this situation. There are no clear guidelines on what school districts are to do if the child is not supervised. For example, what if a bus arrives at a stop in the morning and there's no parent watching over the child? It would be absolutely insane to refuse the child entry to the bus, abandoning them by the side of the road. But otherwise, what is the purpose of the law?

There have already been reports of buses refusing to allow students to disembark without a parent present. This is problematic, too. How long should bus drivers wait? How is the child handled after that point?

Policy 4336 addresses none of these questions, leaving everything up to the districts to interpret.

In short, while school bus safety around stops is of paramount importance, Policy 4336 has every sign of a law pushed through without due thought and consideration. Districts and parents in West Virginia are already struggling to work within the law, and questions continue to be raised.

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