Author Topic: Musical Instruments on the School Bus. Mini Updates #39, 70  (Read 14993 times)

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norrina

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Musical Instruments on the School Bus. Mini Updates #39, 70
« on: September 29, 2012, 12:10:06 PM »
I'm not sure if this is really an etiquette question so much as a "business" one. But I would like input as to (a) whether I am being unreasonable to pursue this in the first place, and (b) what my best course of action is going to be if I do pursue it. It's LONG, sorry!

Backstory
My fiance's son (DSS, for simplicity's sake) started middle school in mid-August. He gets 2 blocks of "related arts" in middle school, his choice of strings, band, PE, and/or a foreign language. He chose band as one of his two blocks, and was assigned the trombone as his instrument. We rented his instrument through the company recommended by the school, and he received his instrument at a Saturday "band starter camp" in mid-Seotember. The first week that he had the instrument passed without incident. Monday of the 2nd week he came home from school and told us that his bus driver told him he couldn't bring his instrument on the bus anymore, only clarinets and flutes.

I am a bit of a Type A personality. Before school even started, I read every document and link on his school's webpage. DF and I attended back-to-school orientation, and I read every piece of paper there. DSS came home from his first day of school with a sheath of papers, and I read all those too. This was the first I'd heard that band instruments wouldn't be allowed on the school bus. Just in case I'd missed something though, I re-read the school's website and all the papers from orientation and that DSS had brought home, and dug through the entirety of the district's website. DF did the same. We still couldn't find a policy regarding band instruments on the school bus. So we figured DSS must have misunderstood something.

Tuesday morning we waited for the bus with DSS, and DF asked the bus driver if she could tell us if there had been a misunderstanding, or if DSS was in fact not permitted to bring his trombone on the bus. She told us violins and violas were the only instruments allowed. We asked if DSS would be able to ride the bus that day since this was the first notice we were receiving from her or the school, and needed to arrange alternate transportation, but our request was refused. She gave a phone number to call, so I called while DF took DSS to school. The number was not for anyone at the school, but was for the bussing company that the school contracts with. The woman I spoke to stated that it is district policy that no instruments are allowed on the bus, but that the school and the company had decided to make an exception for violins and violas. She could not tell me where the policy was posted, or why the parents had not been informed.

The Question
At this point, I am of a mind to call the assistant principal or principal, then possibly the superintendent. I am concerned that DSS was assigned an instrument that he cannot continue playing unless we are able to rearrange our schedules to drop him off and pick him up every day. I am concerned that while we can make these arrangements, other parents in the same boat may not be so lucky. I am concerned that a good number of children are not going to be able to participate in the public achool's free band and strings programs because this restriction on bus riders is going to create a barrier to entry. I am concerned that we were not told of this "policy" until a month into the school year, and then it was through DSS as the messenger. I would like to work with the school and/or district to come up with reasonable alternatives or accommodations for bus riders that want to pursue music. Would it be reasonable for me to take this route? If I do, who do I need to talk to, and what should I say?

Thanks eHellions!
« Last Edit: October 04, 2012, 08:13:50 PM by norrina »



Sharnita

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Re: Musical Instruments on the School Bus
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2012, 12:21:35 PM »
I would talk to the principal, making it clear you know he/she is not responsible for the conttact with the bussing company. My guess is that you might need to address the boatd of ed or superintendent.

Acadianna

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Re: Musical Instruments on the School Bus
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2012, 12:26:47 PM »
I would start with your son's band director/teacher, and tell him/her just what the bus driver said.  Ask if this is, indeed, the school or district's policy.

If the answer is, no, not policy -- then you'll need to ask them to straighten this out with the bus driver (who may simply have made it all up) and possibly with the bus company (who may have established a policy they weren't entitled to make).  This part should come from the school, rather than you.

If the answer is, yes, it's the policy -- then I'd ask whether they expect students to practice at home and, if so, how.  Again, the ball should be in the school's court to solve this problem.  I would not be willing to provide alternate transportation for the purpose of carrying band instruments.  That's not fair to parents, expecially to those who aren't able to make other arrangements.

If the band director/teacher isn't helpful, then I'd move up the chain of command to the principal.

snowdragon

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Re: Musical Instruments on the School Bus
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2012, 12:39:53 PM »
Talk to the school district office.   Bus drivers and companies have been doing this since the dark ages when I went to school - get all the facts from the district office and then go to the school and the bus company again. If this is the case then make sure the principal and band director know what is going on and that this could impact students.   
  I would also look into what sports equipment is aloud on the bus - some schools discriminate against musicians and arts and bend over backwards for athletes, don't let your kid suffer this while other kids are bringing bigger and far more dangerous stuff on the bus. ( Thinking skates and hockey sticks )

Sharnita

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Re: Musical Instruments on the School Bus
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2012, 12:52:48 PM »
Do you know if the district has contracted with this company before or is this a new arrangement?

kherbert05

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Re: Musical Instruments on the School Bus
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2012, 12:59:06 PM »
Dollars to Donuts - the bus company made this decision unilaterally (or even this driver doesn't want the "hassle" of instruments and made up the rule off the top of his/her head) and they are hoping parents will just obey. School district lawyers would make sure transportation issues were front and center of paper work, because they don't want to be sued.

Start with the band director, head of Fine Arts, and band booster club (a very powerful group in most districts 2nd only to the Football boosters in most*) I bet your problem will be solved fast. Act puzzled because obviously the school district doesn't have this policy.

*Band is often the last arts group cut from the budget, because you need a marching band for football games.
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Sharnita

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Re: Musical Instruments on the School Bus
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2012, 01:04:34 PM »
Actually, I could easily see something that bad being.in the contract and the districr agreeing to it because on the surface outsourcing looks like such a great way to save money that they don't check some of the particulars.

norrina

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Re: Musical Instruments on the School Bus
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2012, 01:11:11 PM »
Thank you for he thoughts so far.

Sadly, the band director's mother passed away in the past week or two, so I would rather not put this on his plate right now if I can resolve the matter through other channels.

I actually forgot about there being a school attorney. I want to start out friendly and cooperative, but if I don't get anywhere I do have his contact information and I might see if we can have a chat.

This is not a new contract as far as I know. I don't know how long the district has used the company, but I do know that I saw busses with the company's name on them the last 2 school years that we've lived here.




Harriet Jones

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Re: Musical Instruments on the School Bus
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2012, 01:27:11 PM »
I guess it depends on how well-funded the band program is, but our middle school owns some of the bulkier instruments that the students can borrow for class, so they can leave their own instrument at home. 

kherbert05

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Re: Musical Instruments on the School Bus
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2012, 01:30:50 PM »
With the Band Director's Mom passing away, you might contact the other arts teachers (Choir if you have it visual or dramatic arts if you don't) and ask them who to contact. The arts often work together, and would know if the best route was building principal, going direct to transportation, or up the district arts department chain.
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Coley

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Re: Musical Instruments on the School Bus
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2012, 01:55:29 PM »
My DS just started band this year, too, with French horn. I know there are bus riders at his school who are carting all sorts of instruments. I have not been told of any instrument restrictions created by the bus company; however, we are in a position that we can pick up/drop off DS. If we weren't, DS would be carting his horn on the bus. It truly chaps my hide that your family and others have been put in this difficult position due to what appears to be lack of communication and/or misunderstanding about policy.

If it were me, given that the band director may be unavailable, I'd probably start with the school principal. If the principal was not able to help directly, I would then go to the district's fine arts administrator. If the busing issue is a problem at the middle-school level, it is likely to be a problem at all levels throughout the district.

What to say? I think you've expressed your concerns very well: "I am concerned that DSS was assigned an instrument that he cannot continue playing unless we are able to rearrange our schedules to drop him off and pick him up every day. I am concerned that while we can make these arrangements, other parents in the same boat may not be so lucky. I am concerned that a good number of children are not going to be able to participate in the public school's free band and strings programs because this restriction on bus riders is going to create a barrier to entry. I am concerned that we were not told of this 'policy' until a month into the school year, and then it was through DSS as the messenger." Then I might add, "Moving forward, how can parents and the school district work together to create alternatives and accommodations for bus riders who want to pursue music?"

You also might consider rallying some other parents to your cause. It may also be helpful to talk with parents of older middle school kids to see how this has been addressed in the past.

I would be very interested in hearing how this turns out. I hope you'll keep us updated!

bbgirl

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Re: Musical Instruments on the School Bus
« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2012, 01:56:54 PM »
In the district I work, this is often a policy up to the individual bus driver and it quite often depends on how full the bus is during the route driven. I've had my students who play cello not be able to take an instrument back and forth (rarely though) so they've compensated by having a parent pick up their instruments on Friday afternoons in order to get practice time over the weekend. Same with the basses. Some years I've had enough in my inventory to allow them to keep an instrument at home and one at school.  But  a trombone? It's long and fairly skinny so I'm not sure why the student can't hold the instrument upright between their knees while seated.

I guess my advice is to contact the bus company and speak with their director asking them to clarify their reasoning. If that gets you nowhere, go to the district office and speak with them. Last resort, ask the band director for an in class instrument and an at home instrument. Or arrange a Friday pick-up.

It's not ideal, but there are ways to make it work. Perhaps your son could even get his practice time in during the lunch time at school?

At any rate, it stinks but ultimately the bus driver needs to make sure the environment on the bus is safe in transport. Definitely check though to make sure it's a policy being held across the board for any objects over X amount of sizing and that it's not exclusive to instruments.

Sharnita

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Re: Musical Instruments on the School Bus
« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2012, 02:20:29 PM »
I have to disagree with the advice to go to the band/choir director.  These people are in classrooms, they have plenty of responsibilities  and limited authority.  Transportation is usually beyond their scope so the most they would probably be able to do would be to go to the principal and explain that a parent is upset about this situation.  In my experience, it is taken more seriously when they hear from parents directly.

Twik

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Re: Musical Instruments on the School Bus
« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2012, 02:27:01 PM »
I have to disagree with the advice to go to the band/choir director.  These people are in classrooms, they have plenty of responsibilities  and limited authority.  Transportation is usually beyond their scope so the most they would probably be able to do would be to go to the principal and explain that a parent is upset about this situation.  In my experience, it is taken more seriously when they hear from parents directly.

I think this is more than "parents are upset". This policy means that the majority of students cannot study their course material.

If the bus company suddenly decided, "no textbooks allowed on the bus", would it not be just as much the teachers' concern as the parents? It is completely negating the ability to learn course material.
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Sharnita

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Re: Musical Instruments on the School Bus
« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2012, 02:29:13 PM »
I have to disagree with the advice to go to the band/choir director.  These people are in classrooms, they have plenty of responsibilities  and limited authority.  Transportation is usually beyond their scope so the most they would probably be able to do would be to go to the principal and explain that a parent is upset about this situation.  In my experience, it is taken more seriously when they hear from parents directly.

I think this is more than "parents are upset". This policy means that the majority of students cannot study their course material.

If the bus company suddenly decided, "no textbooks allowed on the bus", would it not be just as much the teachers' concern as the parents? It is completely negating the ability to learn course material.

I get that but what I am saying is that the band director is not in charge of transportation so they probably wouldn't know much nor could they make anybody do much.  There also tends to be more reaction to parents pushing an issue than teachers.