Children shouldn't get lostwhile riding on a school bus
I am fortunate enough to be the grandmother of five beautiful grandchildren. My youngest granddaughter is not only beautiful; she is also a non-verbal, autistic 5-year-old who attends the Headstart program for children with disabilities in Austintown. My son and daughter-in-law both work, so she is bused by the Austintown school system from daycare to her classes at Austintown Fitch. She is transferred to a second bus in order to make her trip shorter. She is one of three students on her bus who has an aide, as well as a driver, whose sole purpose is to care for and oversee these three students.
In March she was dropped off at day care by her father. Imagine his shock when he received a call from her preschool teacher, Mrs. Smith, to inquire if she was sick that day. He immediately called the day care to make sure that she had gotten on her bus. He was assured that she was on the bus in her assigned seat. Mrs. Smith then notified the bus coordinator to have her follow-up and inquire if my granddaughter was still on the school bus. She was told that she was not. Words cannot express the horrors going through the mind of my son and daughter-in-law at this point. The bus coordinator called the driver and aide and asked both of them if she was still on the bus and was told that she was not.
My son was standing outside my granddaughter's classroom at Fitch when to his surprise (and relief) he saw his daughter getting out of a white SUV driven by the bus aide. No explanation was given as to why she was in a private car. No permission had been obtained from her parents or other family member for alternative transportation.
After notifying his wife that my granddaughter had been located, my son proceeded to the office of the school superintendent, Stan Watson, to discuss this matter. Mr. Watson promised to look into this matter. He later called my son to tell him that as soon as my granddaughter had been found on the bus, she had been returned to the school. When my son told him that his daughter was transported by the aide in her personal vehicle, Mr. Watson said he had been given the impression that she was transported on a school bus.
This matter was taken to the April 19 school board meeting -- item 20 on the agenda. The aide, Cathy Mellott, received a three day suspension, which she had already served the week before the board meeting. This matter was not discussed but merely approved. I had been assured by Board Member Michael Creatore when I spoke to him that he would push for at least five, if not 10, days suspension.
My granddaughter and her entire family as well as all children transported by the Austintown school system and their families should not have to go through such a traumatic situation. All children should be transported safely and according to the state of Ohio guidelines. It is state law that our children are educated and we as parents and grandparents should be able to have confidence in those we are entrusting with our youth.
It seems to me that if two adults cannot keep track of three students, they are definitely not doing the job they are being paid to do. So my question is why do they still have jobs? Why was such a light reprimand given to the aide? Why weren't parental concerns addressed at the school board meeting?
Wars should be declared
Now that a large proportion of the public has decided that Bush's war in Iraq is not a worthwhile adventure, it seems like a good time to recall our civics lessons from school. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war, but as far as I know the last declared war that we participated in was World War II.
I can think of at least 10 conflicts where servicemen have been placed in harm's way since WWII, but in none of those conflicts did the Congress actually declare war. It might be possible to avoid foolish wars if Congress actually had to vote and authorize the war before our sons and daughters were sent overseas to die in our name.
STEVEN K. BROWN