It all started yesterday when I picked the kids up from school. We went through our normal routine handing out baby wipes & snacks as well as the after school questions Sam and Julia have come to expect from me over the course of the three mile drive home. How are you? Who did you play with at recess? Was everyone at school today? How was your spelling? Did you have fun on your field trip? Who did you sit by on the bus?
That last question is the one that started an avalanche of questions because I learned that Julia didn't ride the bus to her field trip. She rode with a classmate's mom in the front* seat. By the time my fingers were flying over the touch screen on my phone I had learned that Julia had been seated in the front seat of that mom's vehicle. I considered titling this post, "The day I yelled at my child's teacher" but I opted against that because as I said on twitter shortly after I talked to the teacher, the take away message for me was DON'T ASSUME ANYTHING. Always Always ask for more information when it comes to your child being in the care of others.
I assumed that my child would always ride the bus for field trips or walk with a teacher.
I assumed that when I filled out an emergency form that lists who is allowed to pick up my children from school that meant that I never had to worry that the school would release my child with anyone other than those listed.
I assumed that every effort to provide a safe environment for my child would be sought by school personal.
And so I went to the Principal's office today to clear up a few things.
It was hard to know where to start when I sat down this afternoon. Should I start with the utter disappointment I felt in learning that not once but TWICE my daughter was transported unsafely (in a prior local trip she had ridden in a personal car WITHOUT a booster seat) or with the fact that the school had released my child to a person that I don't know other than to say hello to in the school hallway?
I ended up starting at the beginning with the conversation I had with the teacher 45 minutes before the field trip was to start. You see, at the last minute we had two parents home which meant one of us could go on the field trip. I called the school to find out what time they were leaving and after a brief conversation with the teacher where I was told we could come if we wanted but they didn't need us to, I left it as, if we are going to go, we'll meet you there at 10:45. It turned out that the timing wasn't going to work for one of us to make it after all. I shared this information with the principal because I felt that an opportunity to provide information to a parent about transportation was RIGHT there and was not taken. This point was eye opening for me because apparently this has been common practice at our school for teachers or other parents to drive students.
I pray that after today that will change.
Call me over protective if you want but I can't imagine there is a parent out there that wouldn't at least want to be TOLD who there child was riding with. While I am not exactly thrilled to be 'the one' to call the school on this I am relieved to know that it wasn't brought to my attention because a child was hurt in an accident.
I urge you to talk to your child's teacher and make sure you are on the same page as far as your expectations for leaving school grounds/field trips etc... Don't do what I did and make assumptions!
Has anyone else had a similar experience or issue with a policy at school? Were you able to resolve it without burning any bridges with your child's teacher?
post note: I did email Julia's teacher this evening and let her know that I had visited with the principal about using personal vehicles and the safety issues related to riding in the front seat.
(By the way, it is not illegal here to be in a front seat if that is the only option for a child 1-12 but it is recommended by EVERYONE that children ride in the back.) I reiterated the fact that our family has a policy that nobody else is to ever drive our children again unless it is on a school bus. If there is a field trip that they don't have a bus for I asked for advance notice so I can make other arrangements.
* In a later conversation it turns out that Julia rode in the front seat on the return trip to school while a different child rode in the front on the way to the destination. The teacher knew that children were in the front and was OK with this because the parent had said she checked and it's not illegal for children to ride in the front. This is a perfect example of why parents are to be the ones making decisions for their OWN children. While one parent might be comfortable doing something because it isn't illegal, another might feel very strongly against it.