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Burke Statement on School Bus Assault


 

Justice for 9 Year Old School Bus Assault Victim


ERIE COUNTY, NY- On November 25, 2015 the Buffalo News reported that a nine year old boy was physically and sexually assaulted on a school bus in South Buffalo. The News reported that the assault happened while no bus aide was in attendance. As the Legislative representative of this district, and as a father to a 9 year old boy who also takes the bus, I am shocked and saddened. This requires a vocal community response and those responsible, mainly the Buffalo Board of Education, First Student and the assailants, should be held accountable. This isn’t to imply that this is a new issue, the quality of bus aides, and bus drivers has been a historic problem.

 

When I was a child in the Buffalo Public School system, we had a carousel of terrible bus aides who never lasted long. One was an admitted drug dealer, one was a large man who would make us sit on our hands and then sit on us for long periods of time, and some were meek and allowed unruly students to treat them terribly. What nearly all of them had in common was that they had no business over-seeing the safety of children. In retrospect, some of them were downright abusive.

 

This is the cost our children pay when we choose to cut corners. The drivers and aides we rely on to safely transport our children have to work in an incredibly stressful and often hostile environment. The pay they receive for protecting our children is miniscule. There are obviously clear challenges to attracting and retaining quality people to a job that pays so little, and comes with so many stressors.

 

There will be calls to do away with busing all together and go back to neighborhood schools but for this specific situation, that argument is not germane. We have young children suffering traumatic events in what is supposed to be a protected environment. We cannot get away from that point to fit someone’s political or policy narrative. We have to punish the people responsible for this heinous act and commit the resources necessary to protect our children in the future.  Right now, busing is a reality for a broad scope of reasons, and walking to school just isn’t an option for some of our children, let’s first make sure our kids are safe and then we can debate whether busing or school choice policies should be amended.

 

Patrick B. Burke

Erie County Legislator, 7th District