Parents call for end to bus stop harassment

October 14, 2008

By Chantelle Lusebrink

More than 20 parents in Klahanie asked Issaquah school board members to stop harassment of their middle school students by high schoolers who share the same bus.

At the Oct. 7 meeting, Katherine Kennedy, a parent of a Beaver Lake Middle School student, read a letter from the parents whose children ride the bus.

“The bullying and sexual harassment must be stopped,” Kennedy said.

Parents allege that their students have endured verbal, physical and sexual harassment from several Skyline High School students for the past two years.

“Harassment on the school bus is the same as harassment at school,” Sara Niegowski, director of district communications, wrote in an e-mail. “Every claim is taken seriously and investigated.”

This year, students have been “called derogatory names, such as ‘dickhead’ and ‘faggot,’” the letter said.

Kennedy’s son was also shown a nude photo from a high schooler’s cell phone.

“The result of this blatant abuse is that many children do not feel safe riding the bus and they have remained silent out of fear,” Kennedy read.

The route was formed in 1995 as a way for the district to cut transportation costs of nearly empty high school and middle school routes, according to transportation records.

There are 46 other similar combined routes in the district.

Many combined routes have fewer incidents, because the “high school students provide a calmer presence,” Niegowski said.

Parents have tried to work with district officials to correct the problem, but it persists and parents would like two routes formed, Kennedy said.

After the incidents this year were reported, the schools’ principals and assistant principals and transportation officials investigated security tapes, talked with both groups of students and rode the bus to enforce behavior after the incidents were reported, Niegowski said.

After examining the bus’ security tapes, which are capable of picking up sound and capturing video, officials found only one instance of harassment and that was handled immediately, she said.

Officials examined footage from one week prior to the first reported incident, which was Oct. 2, through the following week.

School officials said they couldn’t get enough information from middle schoolers during the investigation for further action.

“When it comes to students misbehaving on a bus, the immediate reaction is not to alter the bus route but to work with the students involved in the incident,” Niegowski said. “If it ever becomes apparent that the level of misbehavior on a bus requires a routing solution, we will look at that option.”

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com.

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Comments

One Response to “Parents call for end to bus stop harassment”

  1. Mark Lee on October 16th, 2008 11:57 pm

    The quote you provided from the school official refers to students “misbehaving” and “working with the students” involved. This really sounds like minimizing. Some years back there was a lawsuit involving student on student harassment in Puyallup. The school creates and controls the school bus environment that puts the bullies in a position to harass the other kids. If the students doing the bullying does not stop they should be barred from riding the bus and ultimately expelled if they are just not getting the message.

    If the school district is unwilling to take effective action it should be held liable for the harassment. There is no reason why kids riding a bus route that is under the control and supervision of the school district should be subject to being tormented.

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