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You can call me neurotic, but my children won’t be taking a bus

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You can call me neurotic, but my children won’t be taking a bus

A recent notification from my child’s school had me fuming when a change in their concert venue required permission for my six-year-old daughter to ride between locations in a hired bus.

Que mom panic. I am particular about keeping my business and mom life separate. My initial response was to step back and not say anything… I understood that my reacting could look like ‘sour grapes’ for not having been able to do this as Cool (kids’) Cabs (I’m not even going to detail the reasons why this isn’t the case for the purpose of this article).

But in keeping quiet was I complicit in allowing children to be placed in danger? My decision was ‘YES’ – my silence would be irresponsible. I possess the knowledge to know that this is an extremely unsuitable situation in which to place a group of six-year-olds, and not saying something publicly would make me negligent.

So I did. And it backfired. And I am bitter!

I am so incredibly angry! I am angry that the school thought it vaguely acceptable as an option. I am angry that not one other parent stood up and objected, even once I had given information on the safety risks. I am angry that I had to choose between ostracising my little girl and keeping her safe. I am about the snarky response I got when I enquired whether the school buses were equipped with seat belts and age-appropriate car seats. I am angry, that yet again, as a parent I am forced to make a choice I shouldn’t have to because the school opted to make a decision for me.

After I posed my question around car seats and seat belts, the school responded that “yes, the bus has seat belts, but it isn’t equipped with toddler seats ?.”

See the use of the word ‘toddler’ and the little emoji to poke? When I read that sentence I read between the lines.. and I see the dig at the fact that ‘you’re being neurotic, they’re six, they’re not babies’.

BUT THEY ARE. They are still babies physically – their bodies are not sufficiently developed to withstand crash forces! They still need car seats! For another six years!!! And this lackadaisical, mocking response is not only poor manners, it is uneducated and incredibly dangerous. (Th school has still not been able to tell me whether these were lap belts or full three-point belts – however, I know the answer to this already.)

Unlike American school buses, which are specifically equipped with high seats and designs which provide something called ‘compartmentalisation’, a rented bus in the South African context is just not safe for a child. It is NOT designed to achieve ‘compartmentalisation’.  It’s not bright yellow and easily noticeable. It doesn’t have a dedicated lane with associated road rules. It doesn’t have driver specific training around children and safety and, it does not have appropriate seat belts!

It’s no secret that South African laws surrounding car seats have always been lacking, and while it is a requirement to have all children under the age of 3 years old strapped in a car seat in a private car, I still constantly see children standing up in the backseat or sitting on the laps of parents in the front seat. Worse yet, I see transport operators DAILY transporting children in the absence of any car seats. The law has also failed to note and implement that children should be in a car seat until the age of 12 years old when they are tall enough to make use of a standard seat belt.

Worse than all of this… our law has made it LEGAL for operators, working for profit, to be exempt from these requirements. Yes, you read it correctly – it is LEGAL for an operator to transport your child without a car seat. Did you know this?

While I can’t speak much for the law, I do expect more from schools – especially schools who have the means and ability to ensure that their students are transported safely between locations. After all, these are 6-year olds, and no matter what you try telling me, I am just not okay with my child being transported in a rented bus that does not have age-appropriate car seats.

Anyone who knows me knows I am the far from overprotective… the fact that I have been placed in a situation which requires me to state this, infuriates me. I challenge and encourage my children to take risk and try new things constantly. My kids have been riding motorbikes (with the relevant protective gear) since they were tiny, I allow all of my children a huge amount of autonomy and I love that they live outside of their comfort zones. My eldest has walked on fire and taken an unaccompanied flight. I am not neurotic. I am, however, not willing to place my six-year old into the care of an unknown driver, in a vehicle ill-equipped to keep her safe, on one of the most unsafe places in the country.

Have you been placed in a similar situation at school? What did you do?

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