Bus boss begs parents to act
THE boss of Ipswich's Westside Buses, Vernon Alcantra, has called on parents to step up and be counted in the battle to restore order to our school buses.
Mr Alcantra, who also chairs the Queensland Bus Industry Council (QBIC) school committee, said abuses of the "no child left behind" policy were a major concern - along with violence against drivers and between children.
Two representatives of the QBIC will join union representatives, bus operators, government agencies and Transport Minister Scott Emerson at a meeting of the Bus Safety Committee tomorrow.
In recent months, a number of school bus incidents in Ipswich have highlighted the ongoing problems.
A driver was recently sacked for leaving a 14-year-old child at a bus stop, another was disciplined for abusing parents and shunting cars outside a primary school.
In another incident, the mother of a high school boy was sentenced to 240 hours of community service after assaulting a 61-year-old driver leaving him bloody and bruised.
Mr Alcantra said parents were a key to stamping out problems.
"Bus drivers are not policemen so it's difficult to drive a bus and protect kids from one another," Mr Alcantra said.
"Fighting is the most common problem for drivers unfortunately, the moment you suspend a child, the parents become the problem," he said. "They refuse to believe their children are capable of what they have been accused."
Mr Emerson, who became Transport Minister following the LNP's win in March, said the allegations needed to be addressed and a solution found.
"I think it would shock most Queenslanders that some children and parents are reportedly exploiting a principle, put in place following the disappearance of Daniel Morcombe, for financial gain," Mr Emerson said.
"When children who flatly refuse to pay a fare are telling drivers that their name is Donald Duck then something is terribly wrong. I accept there may not be a simple solution but it needs to be tackled rather than ignored."
Mr Alcantra said bus drivers were caught in the middle of a clash of policies.
"Drivers have to uphold revenue rules and report people who don't pay fares. At the same time we're not allowed to leave anyone behind," he said. "If a suspended kid turns up at a bus stop, what do you do? We have to take them."
Mr Alcantra pointed the finger at some parents for coaching their kids on the law loophole.
"How do these kids know the law? I can't see eight-year-old kids having that conversation in the tuckshop."
Mr Alcantra said the grey policy was one of the biggest issues facing bus companies when it came to recruiting new drivers.