I recently received a call from a parent wanting to know if she could be charged with trespassing because she stepped on to her child’s school bus. Her child was having an issue on the bus, so she waited at the bus stop to speak to the driver. After all of the students were on the bus, the mom got on the first step of the bus and asked the driver a question. The conversation was quick and cordial, but speaking with other parents she was told she could be arrested for getting on the bus. The parent wanted to know if she had broken any laws.
This incident happened in Ohio and I still have a police commission with a law enforcement agency in Ohio. I jokingly tell people I no longer work as a patrol officer because they do not make uniforms in my age, but I work as a training officer, do community outreach programs, and assist our municipality in emergency management planning (Thank goodness companies make khakis and polo shirts in all ages!). Continuing to work as a police officer was beneficial when a similar incident happened with one of my clients and an angry parent. I had a direct connection to the prosecutor’s office to assist in making sure the correct charges could be filed against the parent.
Please note, I am referencing the Ohio Revised Code. Check with the prosecutor in your state/municipality for the correct charges to file if you have a similar event.
The school bus is school property so the logical thought is a parent could be charged with trespassing on the bus.
According to the Ohio Revised Code (ORC):
2911.21 Criminal trespass.
(A) No person, without privilege to do so, shall do any of the following:
(1) Knowingly enter or remain on the land or premises of another.
Criminal trespass would not be the correct charge because a school bus is not a land or premises.
Although the parent could be charged in Ohio with Disorderly Conduct, the more appropriate charge would be Disrupting Public Services.
According to the ORC:
2909.04 Disrupting public services.
(A) No person, purposely by any means or knowingly by damaging or tampering with any property, shall do any of the following:
(2) Interrupt or impair public transportation, including without limitation school bus transportation, or water supply, gas, power, or other utility service to the public.
(C) Whoever violates this section is guilty of disrupting public services, a felony of the fourth degree.
After our conversation, the mom called the Transportation Department and then called me back. Because the conversation was brief and cordial, the school district was not going to take any action against the parent. The mom was relieved and said she would never do something like that again.
It is important for schools to inform their parents how to share concerns when there are issue involving a school bus. The parent’s first point of contact is often the school, but some districts encourage calling transportation directly. What needs to be stressed is for parents to limit conversations with the driver while on their route and to never get on the bus. We train drivers not to let anyone other than their students to board their bus. We ask parents not to engage in conversations with the driver so the drivers can keep to their schedule.
Using this incident as a ‘lessons learned’ incident, does your district provide training for drivers on how to deal with parents? Has your district shared with parents how to communicate concerns they have regarding transportation?