Your Field Trip…My Morning Commute

by admin on June 11, 2013

I’m a college student, and as rent is expensive closer to campus I choose to live a fair distance away from school and commute by bus each morning to go to class. This is normally uneventful, and people in my town tend to be polite on buses–for instance, people practically scramble to vacate their seats for the elderly, pregnant women, disabled people, and so on. However, one morning I encountered an odd situation and I’m not sure what to make of it in terms of etiquette violations.

I live right next to a middle school (or an elementary school, it’s hard to tell based on the appearance of the kids alone), and as I was standing at the bus stop near my house, I notice a veritable herd of kids being shepherded to the bus stop by a few teachers with clipboards. They were all clutching bus tickets, it seemed. I tried not to panic, but can anyone blame me for being apprehensive of children in large groups?

Anyway, the bus arrived a bit late and already nearly full with people on their way to work and school, but the teachers packed the kids on anyway. The driver seemed shocked as I was getting on (the kids were behind me), and I just turned and looked at them, wide-eyed, and shrugged at the driver to indicate that I, too, was confused. I managed to jam myself in an awkward place near the door so I could let people off but also get out of there quickly–I’m a bit claustrophobic, you see. The kids were a bit loud and obnoxious–sadly, the low standard of behavior for kids these days has desensitized me to some degree, so I don’t recall them being too bad. But the teachers were making no effort to show them how to act on public transit.

What bothered me the most was that the bus, being over capacity, had to pass by stops full of people needing to go places. Work, school, etc. As far as I’m aware, there wasn’t another bus trailing behind and the organization that runs the buses wasn’t given any sort of advance notice. Due to recent budget cuts, bus service has been scaled back, hence there are fewer times in the day when they can afford multiple buses on a route.

Once we arrived at the university, I slipped out of the bus quickly and saw the kids piling out behind me. I gathered that they were on a field trip to the university, perhaps for a tour. Was it really appropriate of them to commandeer the bus to basically use it as cheap field trip transportation? I understand that renting a school bus can be tricky and expensive, but the school district is pretty well funded. While I can conjecture that they could’ve afforded their own bus, I can’t say for sure, so I’m not certain what to think here. 0608-13

That’s an interesting dilemma and one I wouldn’t want to be caught in.  However, I’m not seeing how this school group on a field trip should be restricted from using public transportation.   Users of public transit have no inherent right or guarantee of  available space on the bus or train.  For example, the Washington DC subway system during a parade, holiday event or worse, a large political rally.   The system gets clogged fast and that means regular commuters have an additional challenge getting to and from work.   That also means this school group took the risk of not being able to fit them all on one bus but since the driver let them on, they were accorded every right as paying passengers.

How they behaved once on the bus is a different matter.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

AuntyEm June 11, 2013 at 6:29 am

A couple of weeks ago, I was on public transport in Chicago and the bus was getting crowded but was not full.
We approached a bus stop with about a dozen middle-school age children and about 4 adults and they were taking pictures of each other with their camera phones as the bus slowed. I guess the bus driver didn’t feel like dealing with them because she suddenly picked up speed and just drove by them much to their chagrin. I have to say that I was relieved they weren’t all piling on the bus I was on but I did feel sorry for them standing there watching us go by. I wondered if the bus driver really had the discretion to decide not to stop.


Airelenaren June 11, 2013 at 6:49 am

My first thought was that it might have been a lesson for the kids to teach them how to travel by bus (you know, how to find the right bus, how to purchase and use the tickets, etc.), but then it would be weird for the teachers not to teach the children how to behave while inside the bus.
So maybe it really was a money problem.
However, if the children disturbed people somehow (I don’t know how the children behaved, but Op seems to think they should have been corrected, so I’m not sure how inappropriate their behavior was), and the teachers didn’t react, then I think the bus driver or the other passangers should have said something.


--Lia June 11, 2013 at 6:49 am

I must be missing something. Why are we apprehensive of children in large groups? They weren’t carrying guns, were they? Making threats? Spreading disease? As a rule, children are considered to be cute, and while they may be on the noisy side, you generally don’t run any worse risk from them than getting your foot stepped on or maybe have one yell in your ear.

As for the situation at hand, assuming they were paying the usual fare, I can’t see what the problem could be with an unusually large number of people deciding to use the city buses one day. Surely everyone who missed their usual bus because it was too full to take on new passengers is prepared for the possibility of a bus coming late because of traffic or the need for repairs.

Now if the children were doing something that was actually unsafe or breaking the law, the driver has the responsibility to tell them to cut it out or to put them off the bus, but I’m trying to figure out what that might be from what you described. Running around and not staying in their seats maybe, but if the obnoxious behavior was just from a bunch of kids talking in high pitched good spirited child voices, nope, no reason for complaint.


Lo June 11, 2013 at 7:01 am

“but can anyone blame me for being apprehensive of children in large groups?”

Not in the slightest. I’m not a kid person so you can take my two cents with a grain of salt, but being stuck on a public bus crammed with children sounds like absolute hell. I think it would have been more appropriate for the kids to have gone in a school bus or their own transporation provided by the school but who knows the situation here? The only thing you can do is react to it.

I’m not willing to blame the teachers off the bat though; they’re there to teach and to chaperone but they’re not parents and they’re outnumbered and kids in public tend to be loud. They probably didn’t have any control over the choice to take public transit either. It sounds like the only thing the kids were really guilty of was being numerous and loud. But that’s children. When you can’t avoid them you’re probably going to be listening to some noise. I’d be more likely to throw my hands up in the air and deal with it. Public transit could always be worse.


Ergala June 11, 2013 at 7:08 am

Lia a child is cute yes, but a whole group of them and the noise level that accompanies, not so cute at all. I have two children and I can tell you I absolutely HATE going inside their schools, especially my oldest’s. My 3 year old’s isn’t too bad, it’s primarily the parents I avoid at that one (preschool). But a whole group of elementary or middle school children can be quite overwhelming. Often times their internal volume buttons are broken and by the end of being totally encompassed by them your ears are ringing.

In this situation I think the school should have notified the bus company of their plan. The fact that people were made late to work because of this isn’t acceptable. And last I checked those schools usually have their own buses. We live in a very very small town that isn’t well funded and the school always uses their own buses for field trips. Sure in this situation they might be teaching the kids about public transit, but not when it interferes with real life.


Mer June 11, 2013 at 7:13 am

Yes, I see no problem in here. Also this is very typical use of public transportation in my living town too, as sport fields and such might be further away, so it is just not feasible to rent a buss for every class to visit sports field at their P.E. lesson.

Granted, it is not nice if you don’t fit in the buss and, I think that when possible, it would be great if larger school groups would use less crowded shifts, but as with any public transportation, there is always a risk of not fitting in specific shift (or something major has happened and said route is not driven at all and you end up missing it because of that) and that must be accepted and taken into account if getting in time is imperative. This is why, if I’m going to something very important, I try to use such shift that I could still make it in time if I miss that and need to use the next. Of course I understand that if there is 1 hour between those, it is very fustrating and sometimes impossible to reserve enough time.

I don’t see there is really a way to determine who has right to use public transportation, because it is public. Should somebody with car never use public transportation for s/he is taking a place from person that does not have a car?


Heather June 11, 2013 at 7:13 am

I agree with Lia… I don’t understand the fear of panic… nor the quick assumption that no one would blame her for her apprehension. Op mentions that they are possibly elementary or middle school children… rowdy perhaps… because they were in a group and excited… but not exactly gang members. I doubt strongly that the bus driver shared her concern… I’m sure bus drivers have seen it all and this crowd didn’t raise a blip on his radar. Op even mentions that she doesn’t recall them being that bad. And yes, when a bus is too full, it must pass on other riders in favor of the next bus. True, the people left behind at the stops were on their way somewhere… but so were the kids and the teachers.


Abby June 11, 2013 at 7:30 am

I have to admit, I’d not be thrilled to see a large group of children get on my bus either- I wouldn’t fear my safety or anything, but kids tend to be loud. That being said, I don’t think they should be barred from using public transportation, nor do I think OP has any more right to a bus because she’s going to school vs. going on a field trip. I agree with Admin.


Margo June 11, 2013 at 7:56 am

Presumably the bus company bases provision on normal usage. When there are events which are known to bring large numbers of extra people into an area there will often be additional buses laid on. I think the school could have spoken with the bus company to see whether it was possible to add a second bus or send a larger on, if they have more than once size

I think it would have been sensible for the person/people arranging the trip to have done a ‘dry run’ before deciding whether it was practical to use that bus at that time of day – it sounds as though they could easily have found themselves in a situation where only a part of the group fitted on the bus.

That said, it is part of the risk you take when you use public transport, and as paying passengers they had as much right as anyone else to use the bus.

Their behavior on board should have been managed by the adults with them and I do not think it would have been out of order to say something to one of those adults, or to later speak to the school, if their behavior was inappropriate (but not if they were simply a bit loud/excited)


Kristen June 11, 2013 at 7:59 am

As someone who uses bus transportation every day to commute to work, I have to take the side of the OP. While the Admin is correct and the school children and their teachers weren’t breaking any rules, I still say it is rude to commandeer the buses by bringing large groups of students onto public transportation at PEAK commuting hours. That’s the key to me, was this trip at 9:30 in the morning when the majority of work and school commuters have already made their trips? Or was it at 7:30, smack dab in the middle of people trying to go to work?

My husband worked for a charter school and they would take their students on the local buses for field trips. He said it horrified him to take over an entire bus, with students who were difficult to manage and then to be confronted by angry commuters who were just trying to get to work or home. I think anyone with common sense would know this is a burden on the public transportation system and other riders. Ultimately it doesn’t seem like a polite or courteous thing to do which is what we’re talking about here, is it not?


Micha June 11, 2013 at 8:02 am

“Why are we apprehensive of children in large groups?”

On a public bus during heavy transit times? Any large group is reason to be apprehensive. At least on parade days, you’re forwarned and can leave earlier to hopefully make up for delays.


Wendy B. June 11, 2013 at 8:15 am

Maybe it would have been better if the teachers had split the group up? Maybe started earlier in the morning, just in case, and when they saw the bus was already quite full, said, “Okay, Miss Smith’s group will take this bus and Mr. Jones’ class will take the next one and we will all meet at the science building.”

I would be apprehensive about a group of kids mostly for the noise and potential unruly behavior. Unfortunately, many teachers feel powerless to correct their students due to the fear of parent reprisal. (Not all teachers, of course).


Anonymous June 11, 2013 at 8:20 am

Actually, I think the OP has a point. It’s all well and good to say that the kids on the bus were “just being kids,” but the reality is, there’s a different standard of behaviour that kids should be held to when they’re in public, adult-oriented places, than when they’re in “kid” places, like school, the playground, summer camp, etc. Public transit falls into the category of a “public, adult-oriented place,” so those kids should have been corrected by their teachers. Actually, they should have been taught before boarding the bus not to speak in voices that can be heard by people outside their “group.” The school bus may be an appropriate place for loud conversations, sing-alongs, etc., but a public bus isn’t. If the teachers didn’t think their students were mature enough to sit on a public bus and be quiet for a few minutes (yes, they may have been bored, but dealing with boredom is a life skill), then they should have rented a school bus, or organized a parent carpool, or something.

As for the issue of using public transportation for a field trip, I find that to be a bit rude also, given the timing. I’ve been to university before, and lived off-campus for part of my time there, and the public transit to the university tends to get crowded around “rush hour” times–first thing in the morning, for students arriving for classes starting at 8:30 or 9 or whenever the first class of the day is, around 5 p.m. with the majority of students leaving campus for the day, and to a lesser extent, around lunch time. While it’s true that public transit users “can be prepared for a late bus, or a bus passing them by,” university students are often penalized for missing classes, exams, etc., and some profs will accept “the bus passed me by,” as an excuse. Many university students can’t afford cars, with the high cost of tuition and housing, and so, they don’t have an alternative to public transit. Presumably (hopefully) the teachers of these students have been to university too, so they know the situation, and therefore, they should have booked their field trip for a non-peak bus time–maybe 10 a.m. instead of 9 a.m., or something. The thing about public resources is, they’re public, and even if you pay for them, it’s still somewhat rude to monopolize them, because they’re finite, and they’re designed to serve everyone, not as field trip transportation for the students of XYZ School.


Sakuko June 11, 2013 at 8:20 am

As I went to school, from preschool to middle school, it was very common to use public transportation for field trips to nearby towns.
Well, German schools don’t regularly have school buses, so the only other option is to rent a bus, which would be paid by the parents, but isn’t really cost-effective unless it is for longer distances.
Public transportation is a cheap option, since a lot of kids have permanent tickets anyway, and the rest just splits 5 person day-tickets.
It’s still not an uncommon sight to see classes of about 30 kids in buses or trains, though they will usually travel during school hours, meaning after the morning rush is over, therefore not filling the vehicle to capacity.

While I have to say that I’m also not a fan at all of bigger groups of children, since they tend to be loud and restless, I also don’t see any rudeness in it.


jeab June 11, 2013 at 8:24 am

They did not “commandeer” a bus. They paid their fares to ride a standardized route to their destination. That is exactly how the public transit system works. I have lived in urban areas on two continents; in both cases, witnessing the use of public transit for school field trips has been a standard part of my experience. As long as their fares are paid, they have just as much right as anyone else to use the system. Would the OP still have had a problem if the same number of children were getting on the public bus at the end of the school day to go home?

Ultimately, I fail to see the etiquette dilemma. The behaviour issues are very vague, e.g. “the kids were a bit loud and obnoxious…[but] I don’t recall them being too bad”, and are not even the OP’s main problem. The whole situation seems to be selfish concern for personal comfort more than anything else. No one is guaranteed a seat on transit. Nor are they guaranteed a quiet or on-time ride. That is the risk you choose to take when using the system.

I did, however, enjoy the notion that the OP’s town is full of polite people who scramble to kindly deliver their seats to deserving strangers — but is simultaneously also full of children with low behaviour standards. Who exactly is raising the poorly-bred brats in this supposedly polite neighbourhood? Perhaps they all bus in from the town next door?


Kim June 11, 2013 at 8:43 am

I take public transportation and loud groups of kids annoy me. H0wever…

I believe it is cheaper to use public transportation for field trips. Also greener, which is a goal of many school districts.

Also, kids see these types of trips as special and they don’t “have to” behave. And they’re with friends, so they are louder. I’ve never seen behaviour worse than just in general being loud and boisterous. Teachers are busy trying to count heads and ensure everyone is on the bus, so cannot keep an eye on behaviour on top of that. Teachers are not magicians.

As a mom of 3 school aged kids, kids on public transportation can be annoying and it’s too bad this field trip took place during rush hour, but I don’t see that anything was done wrong here.


Shalamar June 11, 2013 at 8:45 am

I don’t understand OP’s apprehension either, and frankly, I find her comments mean-spirited. The children were probably excited and happy to be getting out of school and going somewhere new – I know that I always looked forward to field trips when I was little.


k2 June 11, 2013 at 8:46 am

Taking transit for field trips was kind of the norm once I was in about grade 5 or 6 but I know the majority of my teachers did three things very different from what the OP saw.

1) We never travelled during rush hour times if it could be avoided (at least in the morning anyways; in my city, afternoon rush hour starts at about 3 and runs to 7)
2) If there was a large number of us, they’d usually try and split us up into groups and then meet at our destination (eg. 10 of us would get on one subway car with one chaperone, then the next 10 would get on the next car, etc and the same with buses)
3) Even though we lived in a large metropolitan city with three different modes of transit, if the teachers knew we’d be using one of the lesser used modes, such as one of the smaller bus lines, they would call the transit commission in advance to let them know our expected travel times, so the operators could give the bus drivers a heads-up.

I try and remember what it was like to be that age and be excited to be going on a field trip with friends but admittedly I still get a little annoyed to see a large school group/camp group waiting on the platform during my commute because it never seems like the kids have ever been prepped with any kind of transit etiquette (eg. don’t leave your bags on the floor, don’t stand directly in the doorway, don’t scream at your friend at the other end of the car).


Lilac June 11, 2013 at 9:19 am

This is the oddest story. I can understand why commuters would be irritated if they lost their place on the bus because it was filled to capacity by an unexpected group of riders or if the kids were aggressive or badly behaved. I am dumbfounded by this statement though, “I tried not to panic, but can anyone blame me for being apprehensive of children in large groups?” The OP panics when she encounters large groups of middle or elementary schoolers? That sounds like a her own personal issue. SHE may have a problem with children but the assumption that most people would feel the same is very odd. Most people I know might grimace a bit in anticipation of a rise in the noise level but would take it in good humor. Kids on a field trip are usually happy and in high spirits. They laugh and talk loudly. And have done so since the dawn of time. This is not a new phenomena and it’s not something to get worked up about. Most people can stand a little extra noise for 10 to 20 minutes on one commute. While the OP calls the kids’ behavior loud and obnoxious my guess is that the elevated volume was due to the quantity of children, not the quality of their behavior as she admits they weren’t too bad. I am always amazed at what people come up with to complain about. Kids being happy to be out in the world, together, and doing something constructive. How horrible.


Library Diva June 11, 2013 at 9:19 am

While the chaperones should have ensured the children’s good behavior, I don’t think it was intrinsically rude of them to take public transit. The buses are there for the use of everyone in the community, and I wonder if OP would feel the same about a large group of adults that boarded and disembarked together.


WildIrishRose June 11, 2013 at 9:26 am

I’ve never known a school not to have buses for field trips. However, this story relates to PUBLIC transportation. You can’t prevent people from using public transportation except for very specific reasons, and the fact that there were a lot of kids in the group isn’t one of those reasons.

We don’t actually know that the school *didn’t* contact the bus company before sending all those kids out on the bus. We only *assume* that. OP says that the kids were “a bit loud,” but what’s the harm in that? If they remained in place and weren’t hurting anyone, what exactly is the problem here? OP comes across like s/he really doesn’t like kids and doesn’t appreciate when people who aren’t “regulars” get on the bus.

I think this is much ado about nothing, frankly.


Stacey Frith-Smith June 11, 2013 at 9:27 am

I agree that there was no etiquette violation- merely an inconvenience created by a convergence of factors that people were forced to endure and to muddle through. Children who hold a ticket for a bus, train or plane are clients every bit as much as adults are. They should behave or be corrected, but some increase in volume is to be expected if they are a large group. It would also be preferable for them to travel off-peak but I doubt the preference is one that could reasonably be enforced. As for “commandeering” the bus- the bus company should have a plan in place that either requires groups exceeding “x” number to contact them for tickets and scheduling or provides for an alternate bus to come when one is forced to pass “x” number of commuters due to being filled. Yes, it would be nice for the teachers to think of that- but it’s the function of the bus company to see to the satisfaction of its customers.


BarensMom June 11, 2013 at 9:32 am

To my mind, it is rude for a field trip to commandeer a transit bus during peak commute times w/o informing the bus company first. The teacher had other options (parental carpools, school buses), instead he/she opted to inconvenience a great many commuters whose only option may very well be the bus. I could imagine the feelings of those workers as they watched as the bus passed them by, possibly/probably making them all late to work.


AMC June 11, 2013 at 9:41 am

This is tricky because we don’t know what circumstances may have led to the teachers choosing to use public transportation as opposed to renting a bus or using one of the big yellow school buses like they did when I was a kid. From the outside, it does seem like poor planning on the part of the school/teacher. What if there hadn’t been enough room on the bus? However, it’s possible that they didn’t have any other choice. Teachers often have to find their own funding and sponsors to take students on field trips, and this includes transporation costs. One of my best friends is a teacher in a poorly funded school district. She often has to pay for books and supplies out of her own pocket. A couple years ago, she was planning a field trip for some of her students but was having trouble coming up with the funding to pay for a bus driver. I ended up donating the money to her because I felt it was for a good cause. And I received a very lovely thank you card from her students afterward. Money well spent. 🙂


VanessaGa81 June 11, 2013 at 9:45 am

This is somewhat akin to going to the grocery store during a time that it is normally deserted to find it crowded with people. I don’t particularly like it and it makes my trip s bit less pleasant but it is not rude for people to utilize something the say way I have chosen to do. It’s lucky that you don’t normally share your public transportation with a lot of children-in some areas, mine included, children on public busses and trains are normal. The fact that these children were on the bus with you this day is less than ideal for you apparently,but I fail to see how it was rude for them to purchase tickets and ride the bus. If they were overly disruptive then that is another factor but you don’t say that they were, you say they weren’t so bad but then that low standards of behavior have desensitized you, which is a little contradictory and still gives a less than clear picture of what they did that was so upsetting, other than riding the bus when you didn’t want them to.


LonelyHound June 11, 2013 at 9:47 am

AuntyEM (post #1)- When I was in college our city had a church school, middle school and daycare near/on the college campus. Many times there would be a group of adults and children waiting at a stop to go on some sort of trip. The drivers would assess in the mirror how many people they could safely hold and how many waited. If they could really hold no more they passed by the stop and the group had to wait for the next bus. However, if someone needed off and there were college students or other commuters waiting for the bus the driver would hold the group of children, allow the other commuters on and then truthfully tell the adults whether or not they could fit all or parts of the group. Yes, it ruffled feathers, but it was honest and meant to keep all passengers safe.

I wonder if there was any way to forewarn the bus company and therefore the morning commuters. I mean, people taking public transit know that it will be busy during a parade or holiday event and they know when those events are taking place and can plan accordingly. This appears to have caught all commuters by surprise. I tend to agree with Kristen (#10). No, the children and teachers were not rude nor should they be barred from using the bus system. However, if they travelled during PEAK work commuting hours, which it sound like they did, that is rude especially if they had not forewarned the bus company.


petty-chia June 11, 2013 at 9:50 am

“I’m a college student.” Well that says it right there. College students very much need to assert their adulthood by looking down their nose at anyone younger than they. Look OP, they’re taking a public bus to a destination to further their education, as are you. I’m sure when you get on a bus with a half-dozen immature, entitled coeds like yourself, the actual adults groan and bemoan your behavior as well. Perspective, dear: gain some. Or get a bike.


Molly June 11, 2013 at 9:52 am

I don’t agree that any buses were “commandeered.” To me, using this word implies that people going to work or college are more entitled to use the public buses than school children, which is not true. Whether for pure money-saving purposes or to educate the children in how to use public transportation, I think it can be an excellent idea to take your class on a public bus. Public transportation is not a contest in which the people whose final destination/appointment is deemed “most important” get priority.

I would agree that the teachers should have instructed the children about proper behavior on the bus. I would also agree with those who said that the teachers, if transporting a large group of students, should have contacted the department of transportation to warn/inform them, in case more buses will need to be used that morning.


Politrix June 11, 2013 at 9:53 am

A very common occurrence in my large, cosmopolitan city. I’m always amazed at how well the public school staff handle rowdy pre-teens and teenagers, and credit should be given to the kids themselves for doing their best to contain themselves, even though they are kids. (Like we once were, too, please remember.)
While it can be extremely annoying and frustrating, I find it useful to keep a few things in mind when sharing your commute with a large pack of noisy school kids:
1. They are in school. This field trip — and the manners they’re learning on the way there — are part of their education.
2. The budget cuts on your public transportation system are probably a drop in the bucket compared to the brutal slashes that public schools endure each year. If the school could afford to hire a private bus company to shuttle the students around, do you really think they would have opted to use mass transit?
3. Even though it stinks that you have to share your morning commute once in awhile with a swarm of noisy kids, it’s not an everyday occurrence — surely you can suck it up once in awhile, secure in the knowledge that tomorrow will be back to normal.
4. This may be the only opportunity some of these children have to see something of cultural value beyond their own neighborhood. The university you attend, and take for granted, is a source of fascination and mystery to these kids — why not make the best of it, and try to be a gracious host as they explore and learn all about your world.


ALM June 11, 2013 at 9:54 am

I remember in high school we took a field trip in to NYC with several classes worth of students (60 or so people? Less than 100). Our school contacted the Long Island Rail Road ahead of time since we were going during peak commuter time, and the LIRR added an extra car to the train we were taking. (We sat in the extra car, but no one was barred from it). I don’t know if the school was charged anything, but suddenly adding nearly 100 unanticipated passengers to a regular route with no advanced notice is ridiculous, particularly when public transit is facing cut backs or running over capacity during rush hour.


AS June 11, 2013 at 10:15 am

I was brought up in a large city, and when we were in school, we often traveled in public transport. But our teachers always made sure to avoid rush hour traffic. Apart from being a nuisance to regular commuters who had to get to work on time, there is also a risk of not being able to fit in all the kids on one bus, and create a lot of confusion.

BTW, when there is a rally, the public transport system is notified well in advance, and they run extra service. Plus, the public knows about it and offices might give some leeway, which doesn’t happen when you can’t get into a bus because of a random group of school children.


Barb June 11, 2013 at 10:24 am

I confess that a few comments in the post made me inclined to not sympathize with the poster–she lives “right next” to a school, but isn’t sure whether it’s a middle school or elementary school?

And her comment “sadly, the low standard of behavior for kids these days has desensitized me to some degree, so I don’t recall them being too bad” needs to be flagged. Not all kids are poorly behaved and, as has been so often pointed out, people have been making comments like that for decades, at least.

I understand being perturbed at people not being able to get on that bus, but people using public transport are generally accustomed to some vagaries happening. As the Mod says, living in DC, I frequently experience large school groups taking over Metro cars, etc., in the course of my normal commute.


Snowy June 11, 2013 at 10:28 am

I see no problem at all with them using the public bus to take their field trip. However, the teachers should absolutely use this as a chance to teach how to behave on public transit. Also, as a courtesy, the school could have (perhaps should have) planned it so that they are not boarding the bus during rush hour, and/or split the group up so they’re spread out over two or three buses.


Snowy June 11, 2013 at 10:31 am

“As a rule, children are considered to be cute, and while they may be on the noisy side, you generally don’t run any worse risk from them than getting your foot stepped on or maybe have one yell in your ear.”

Not everyone is comfortable around large groups of children, for a wide variety of reasons. They *are* noisy, can be rude simply through lack of knowledge of how to behave, and cute or no, it can be unpleasant for some people to be trapped in a rolling tin can with several dozen of them, especially if their behavior is not being curbed by their chaperons.


K June 11, 2013 at 10:36 am

I lived in Boston for a few years, and it was common — especially in the spring — for large field trips groups to ride on my commute. I think the most frustrating part of field trip groups is that, unlike parades and rallies, you have no warning, so you can’t plan around them when making your decisions for the day. But if a student blocked me from exiting the bus or jostled me, I’d say something to them, the same way I would to any other passenger; other than that, I figure they’re paying customers, and I remind myself that kids and adolescents are still developing the sense of self-awareness that reminds most (but only most!) adult passengers to ride quietly. All things considered, I’d rather school districts put their money toward curriculum, teachers and the arts than to field trip transportation!


Hanna June 11, 2013 at 10:40 am

I’m sure it is different in parts of the country, but public transportation here IS used to get kids to and from school, and to various school bus pick up points. We know it, and avoid the bus during those hours or make alternative arrangements to get where we need to go if we are allergic to children. I think anyone, at any time, knows that a bus can be packed to capacity and have to by-pass a stop and bus goers must and should make plans for this so they are not late to class or work. Personally if I had been OP I would have stepped back and not on the bus when I saw all those kids coming. Not sure exactly what the etiquette issue or question here is?


jeab June 11, 2013 at 10:41 am

I think it is very strange to read comments suggesting that this trip shouldn’t have taken place during peak transit hours. In my experience, a lot of kids ride public transit to and from school each day — and these trips are normally during peak hours, especially during in the morning rush. So what difference does it make if they are travelling to school in the morning (in an informal group) at 8:00am or leaving on a field trip (in a formal group) at 8:30am? Really, where is this strange college town where the OP doesn’t already see groups of kids on transit during the rush hour commute?


Elizabeth June 11, 2013 at 10:47 am

I don’t understand why you think these ticket-holding people are somehow not entitled to use the bus. Is there expectation that one must explain the purpose of your wish to use the bus and that some reasons are more important than others (and that the kids’ reason for getting on the bus was of lesser importance?)?

Perhaps public transportation isn’t for you.


Mary June 11, 2013 at 10:50 am

I’m curious as to how large of a group of kids this was? Are we talking 12 or 50 kids? If its under thirty kids, I’m sure hiring a school bus would have cost a lot more per child than public transit. Plus many districts do not “own” school buses. They contract out with school bus companies so for a field trip, they pay extra for the bus and driver. It’s not as if the bus is at their disposal.

Plus I have also heard of many metropolitan school districts who don’t even use school buses past elementary age. They have found it more cost effective to buy all of the students bus passes for city buses.

Now, if they were misbehaving beyond normal student chatter, that is a different story.


Allie June 11, 2013 at 10:59 am

When I was a youngster, we used to take field trips on public buses all the time, especially at day camp, which would have been prohibitively expensive had they used chartered buses for all our field trips, which were at least 3 a week. Buses in our city tend to be overcrowded most of the time anyway, and were just a bit more overcrowded (and loud) when we piled on. We were not trying to be obnoxious, but that many kids are going to be loud just with normal talking, and you can’t really restrict that. Unless the kids were taking up seats that should have been given to elderly or disabled passengers disturbing other passengers in some way other than by their mere presence, I don’t think you have any right to complain. They have a right to exist, to talk and to use public transit to get where they’re going. Remember, you were a kid once too, and you should not assume all kids are misbehaved. That is unfairly discriminatory.


Kovitlac June 11, 2013 at 11:06 am

I, too, think it was rude to all but commandeer the public bus for a school trip. When I was in grade school/middle school, every single field trip we went on was by school buss, so it was only us. If the trip was longer (say, a marching band competition in highschool, or whathaveyou), it was privately-rented city bus.


girl_with_all_the_yarn June 11, 2013 at 11:16 am

To those of you who seem to think it’s odd that someone might be apprehensive about a large group of children, consider this: You are in the group of people who actually likes children.

OP, I do understand your apprehension. I can imagine that being a loud, stressful commute with all of those kids.

I am not a fan of children in general. I used to babysit, take care of large groups of them, and in church it’s expected that a teenage girl is free babysitting during church events. The end result is that I generally relate to the whole “Oh no. It’s a large group of kids” sentiment.

However, back in high school I once had to help take a large group of elementary students on the local public transportation in my home town (it was one of those “kids teaching kids” things) and we were very adamant beforehand about how each student was to behave on the bus. We even had a contest. The five children who exhibited the best manners got a very large, king size candy bar. The five kids who were the next best with bus manners got a regular size candy bar. Everyone else with 3 or fewer reminders got a little fun size piece of candy. If we had to remind you more than 3 times in a trip, you got to write a page on how to behave on the bus.

Worked wonders. We had other riders complementing the kids on how well they were behaved. Literally, one lady as she was getting off the bus went “I want to tell you kids that you are so well mannered on the bus! Thank you!” We ended up with exactly one kid who needed to write the essay, which was way better than expected for fourth graders.

If these kids were acting up, it’s because they didn’t have an expectation to live up to. Kids will live up to your expectations if you give them the right incentive.


Michele K. June 11, 2013 at 11:25 am

I think this is more of a safety issue.

Safety first. According to the OP, the bus was already nearly full before it arrived at the stop and then the school chaparones stuffed their entire group on this bus. The bus driver should have assessed the group and seen if they would fit safely in the available space. Overcrowding a bus is dangerous because if the occupants needed to evacuate in an emergency situation the pack of people makes it very difficult.

Another safety issue, at least for me, is the possibility that a kid could be left behind, either at the bus stop, or on the bus. With a dedicated school bus, the chaparones can keep count and track of kids. On public transportation, when the kids and chaperones may not used to it, this is not so easy.

I know they are paying passengers like any one else. But, I would be very stressed out if I was on an already crowded bus and the number of people on the bus doubled at a single stop. Getting on and off would be difficult and potentially hazardous. The noise level would be overwhelming in a small space. I can handle crowds in short amounts. Being on that bus would make my stress levels go through the roof. I would likely get off the bus at the first available stop and call a cab.


Catrunning June 11, 2013 at 11:29 am

I used to take the bus occasionally to/from work for “green” purposes. My particular bus line picked kids up from several schools. Well, those kids were the most obnoxious children I have ever come across. They even forced elderly and disabled out of their seats so that they could sit. I was so upset at what I saw that I called the tansit management. They said that because those children (who were more like young adults) were racial minorities, they could not say anything because they would get sued. They did confirm that they had been litigated against in the past simply for enforcing order on their bus fleet.

It turns out there is no actual law against forcing the elderly, the pregnant, etc. out of their seats as long as actual physical violence is not involved. Intimidation is ok. Whoever is legally advocating for those kids is really missing the boat. Yes, they are momentarily victorious in intimidating the rest of the passengers on the busses. But what happens to them in the “real world” once they grow up? Unemployment and incarceration, I would imagine. People in the adult world will not put up with that kind of behavior. I just do not understand why their advocates do not or cannot realize this.


Timothy June 11, 2013 at 11:34 am

@petty-chia: As one of those “immature, entitled” college students, I find your comments as bad of a generalization as the OP’s about large groups of children. You may not agree with the OP’s point, but shouldn’t we be above namecalling people we disagree with? And maybe the OP doesn’t live close enough to the school for a bike to be feasible. I had to ride public transportation to college for a while because I lived about 15 miles away from the school. That’s not exactly bike-riding distance. If you don’t know the full situation, it might be best to not automatically draw the worst conclusion, slapping mud at the OP at the same time.


Calli Arcale June 11, 2013 at 11:38 am

How big was this group? If it was a dozen kids, that could definitely push a city bus to capacity, but be below the threshhold needed to cover the cost of using a yellow school bus for the field trip. It depends on the school’s particular situation. Remember that the school bus fleet (if the school has one; in urban areas it isn’t unheard of to rely on public transportation even for daily busing) is just as finite as the public transit system, and that it has other duties than just field trips. In my children’s district, all of the buses are completely busy from 6:30 AM to 9 PM — first they do the high school runs, then the middle school runs, then the elementary runs. Field trip runs can start after that, and then a subset of them needs to be available for the midday kindergarten runs, and then around 2:30 the afternoon runs start, finishing around 4:30PM, and then it’s the sports runs. The buses are running all the time. Because of this, many districts set guidelines for use of the school buses for field trips; there may be a minimum number of riders, there may be fees, there may be a limit to how many bussed field trips can be taken during a school year, etc. So I can see where a class may choose to use public transportation instead — or may, indeed, be obligated to that choice. I cannot imagine this being a particularly large group, though. Perhaps the group seemed large to OP, who does not sound like the sort of person who would willingly spend a lot of time getting to know middle school field trip groups. 😉 (And honestly, who can blame OP? Middle schoolers are . . . interesting.) But a group of 15 kids is very different from a group of 120 loaded onto three yellow school buses. The former is, in my opinion, not an unreasonable burden to the public transit system.

Is the public transit system inadequate? In most of America, the answer is yes. But that doesn’t mean any particular class of users should be excluded from using it. Could they have chosen their trip at a less disruptive time? Perhaps, though I know in a lot of areas the buses don’t run very frequently (or, in some cases, at all) outside of rush hour. Should the kids have been better behaved? Without details I don’t know, but probably. But rushes happen, and commuters are not actually more entitled to use of public transit than anybody else.


Calliope June 11, 2013 at 11:38 am

The children have as much right to use the bus as anybody else has. The idea that there was something rude about kids taking public transport to a field trip destination is ridiculous to me.

Buses sometimes reach capacity. Buses are not always quiet and comfortable. Buses have other people on them, and you don’t get to choose who those people are. If you have a big problem with any of these things, public transport is not for you.


carol June 11, 2013 at 11:49 am

To be fair, you have no way of knowing if the school notified the bus company. It’s likely they did, and there WAS an extra bus put on the schedule to accomidate the regular commuters. You just happened to be on the same bus as the students.

As to the children’s behaviour on the bus, I get the impression the OP is not comfortable and/or familar with being around children/young teenagers, and therefore anything they did would come off as annoying/slightly disruption. I do not mean this as a slight against the OP. If you aren’t familar with children, then it’s going to be annoying. It’s just human nature.

And with the school budgets being slashed all over the place, it was probably cheaper for the school to take the bus rather then rent a school bus. If the school system doesn’t generally use a bussing system (my son’s old school system didn’t) then there may be extra costs.


Ashley June 11, 2013 at 11:52 am

If they paid their fare, there was nothing wrong on that part of things. Public transit doesn’t always have the same timing or availability. It’s sort of foolish to assume it would always be available when you need it. I’ve been in Chicago when there are events going on and buses that are normally easy to catch become near impossible, with the driver having to skip stops because there’s no room on the bus.

And, I can COMPLETELY understand being apprehensive of kids in large groups. Ever been in a mall that had to go on lockdown because a group of about fifty high school freshman decided that the best way to spend their Saturday afternoon was to run through Macy’s and whatever other stores they could reach, knocking over racks and tearing up clothes? Yeah, I have.


Cat June 11, 2013 at 11:56 am

I taught for thirty- five years in various high schools. Field trips with large groups of children of any age takes planning and courage for the teachers. Even the best behaved child can find him/herself in situations teachers would like to avoid.
The head of our English department was on Grad Nite with the senior class. One of our students, being gallant, swung open a gate so she could pass through ahead of him, caught his hand in the gate, ripped it open, and both he and she spent the night in the emergency room getting his hand sewn up. I won’t go into the details of the one who decided to use cocaine at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, but it would have best been avoided.
I never had to use a public bus for a field trip, but, whatever the means of transportation, teachers should supervise and correct poor behavior. That’s part of the job description.


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