Bus riders frustrated by ‘wild’ rides

On the first few days of school, freshman Yvette Vo boarded the school bus each morning and found a seat among other bus riders. What should have been a short trip to campus each day turned into an ordeal by the end of the week.

“I was bullied…by Taylor kids,” said Vo, who must rely on the bus for transportation each school day. Because of that experience, she said, “I don’t feel that safe on the bus.”

Hundreds of Kerr students ride Alief buses each day. According to the Alief website, the Transportation Department aims to “provide safe, punctual, and courteous transportation to the students of the school district.” But in a school climate survey conducted last year, 27 percent of the Kerr students who responded said they did not feel safe on the buses or the bus ramp.

Sophomore Travis Dinh shares Vo’s concerns about riding the bus. In two years, he has witnessed a variety of bad behavior, including riders throwing things out of the windows of the moving bus.

“I definitely don’t feel 100% safe,” Dinh said. “Maybe 40%…because there are a lot of big and [disrespectful] kids who ride with me, so I feel like there is some danger on the bus.”

Dinh observed a memorable experience during his freshmen year that he  described as “pretty crazy.”

“Some Taylor kid couldn’t get on the bus because he was too late,” he said. “So he stood in front of the bus the whole time when we were at the bus canopy. In the end, they had to get three staff members to drag him out of the way.”

Dinh admits some of his fears may come from the fact that Kerr shares buses with unfamiliar students from Taylor.

“It can be scary because you don’t know them and they don’t know you,” he said.

Vo agrees.

“Sometimes I see kids getting picked on for just being a Kerr student,” she said. “My advice for anyone who doesn’t feel safe is to get real close to the bus driver, so whenever someone acts up, they can help you stay out of trouble.”

Bus rider Omar Habib, a junior, chooses to sit with a fellow Kerr student in order to feel safer.

“He’s the only other person from Kerr that rides my bus,” Habib said. “I think it’s best to sit with someone you know.”

Dinh said he feels his bus driver ignores most of the discipline problems.

“He does the driving part well, but making me feel safe…not really,” he said. “Not enough, at least, because all I hear is cussing and bad language and all I see are fights.”

All three students interviewed told stories about disciplinary problems on their buses; but assistant principal Kim Mathis said students do not report problems when they happen — and they should.

“So far in my two years at Kerr, no one has come by to report a complaint  regarding the buses,” she said. “I haven’t heard anything negative about the bus drivers or the students.”

Mathis explains that if riders wish to file a complaint about the bus driver, they should report directly to her. If they have a complaint about the other riders, such as bullying, cursing, or physically threatening them, they need to first tell the bus driver, then speak to her. Once the complaint is submitted, it is sent to the Alief Administration Building and the Transportation Department. Alief students can be suspended from riding the bus if they violate the rules.

But Dinh remains skeptical.

“I wish they would enforce the rules,” he said. “They have the rules there, but no one really follows them.”