Standing up to the school bus bully

Standing up to the school bus bully. Nineteenth of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck — I’m more than halfway there!

To get to first grade from our farm Whispering Chimneys I had to board a school bus with forty or so rural children — many older than me — for the half-hour drive to Altamont Elementary.

My Kindergarten trips came and went with little fanfare — I think we had a bus of our own, since we only went for half a day.

But my first grade bus — filled with kids from first to sixth grade — brought life’s starker realities crashing into my little world.

Multi-grade mayhem

I remember waiting by the telephone pole at the end of our driveway then entering the big yellow vehicle — where the multi-grade mayhem threw me for a loop.

For the sixth graders, though, the trip was old hat. They’d been there before and had mastered the bus culture — a wild bunch of preteens who pushed the driver’s patience to the limit.

“All right, youse guys, sit down now!” our driver would bellow above the din as we younger children quaked in our seats.

Heading out to first grade the year I stood up to the school bus bully. Scan: Molly Charboneau

But the older kids just ignored him — running out of control in the aisle, kissing in the back seats and bringing blushes to the faces of us youngsters with their rowdy behavior.

“You could hear that bus coming before you could see it,” my father told me years later. And it was sure no picnic being on it!

To calm things down the school authorities established assigned seats. Each bus seat was to hold three children — an older one with two younger kids as “buffers.”

The bully barks his  orders

Wouldn’t you know I ended up with the worst spot — a middle seat halfway back next to Craig, the school bus bully who sat on the aisle. My first-grade classmate Linda, who lived closer to school, got the window.

Craig laid down his ground rules the first day:”You’re gonna do what I say and no talking.” His overbearing demeanor told us he meant business. The daily ritual went downhill from there.

“Hold my books, and don’t drop them,” he would command, thrusting them at me. Then he’d sneak off in his flannel shirt and cuffed jeans to kiss the girl in the last seat.

Every day it was the same — I had to sit still, hold his books, hold his jacket, stop talking, do whatever he said while he ran amok until the bus driver yelled. I was a nervous wreck.

“What did he do today?” Linda would whisper when Craig was out of earshot — and I’d quietly fill her in on the latest outrage. She was sympathetic, but she only got on five minutes from school.  I had to ride alone with him most of the way — and I was miserable!

Taking a stand

I don’t know if I told my parents (Mom says I didn’t) — but maybe Linda told hers or we might have complained to our teacher or perhaps someone overheard us telling other kids on the playground.

But somehow the school got wind of Craig’s misbehavior — because one day, out of the blue, our principal Mr. Alland showed up at my first grade classroom and called me out into the hall.

There next to him stood Craig. I had never seen him off the bus before; the older kids went to class in another wing. Standing in the hallway next to a grown man, he suddenly appeared weak and small.

“I understand this boy has been bothering you on the bus. Is that true?” Mr. Alland asked. I was nervous. I never expected it would come to this — a one-to-one showdown with my tormentor.

But when I looked at Craig — the boy who had bullied me, who I never wanted to sit with again — I knew I had to stand my ground. “Yes, it’s true,” I said. “No, it’s not!” wailed Craig — but Mr. Alland just looked down at him and shook his head.

The next morning when I got on the bus, I had the seat all to myself. Craig had been permanently moved to another seat — probably up front  where the bus driver could keep a better eye on him.

When Linda asked “What happened?” after we picked her up, all I could do was smile.

Up next – Tadah: Third blogiversary! Please stop back!

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8 thoughts on “Standing up to the school bus bully”

    1. Thanks, Stephanie. From second to fourth grade (after we moved to the suburbs) I was able to walk to school. By the time I was back on the bus for fifth grade, it was old hat for me, too, so I had no similar problems 🙂

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