Journaling: Children’s Rights

A student (background) in his driveway waits for a car to illegally pass the stopped school bus before he can safely cross to embark the bus.

A quarter-century ago, when Elyse’s and my son Harrison was starting fifth grade, she already was anticipating his entrance to sixth grade at Mildred E. Strang Middle School in Yorktown Heights.

My wife is far-sighted in any case. In this case, it was strictly in behalf of Harrison’s welfare. Born with a rare form of dwarfism, Harrison’s exuberance made his 15 years on earth fulfilling in many ways, but his quality of life was compromised by restricted mobility and chronic heart-and-lung disease.

A year in advance of Harrison entering middle school, Elyse set herself on a clear-eyed mission to make sure the infrastructure Harrison would need to navigate complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As a result of her dogged perseverance, Strang middle school was outfitted with an elevator and other size-appropriate adjustments (locker, boys’ room, water fountain) that benefited not only Harrison but other physically challenged students who’ve attended the school since then.

During our months-long efforts to rectify what we considered an untenable situation for our child, there were two words, in vogue today, which never passed our lips: parents’ rights. It wasn’t our rights that were being compromised. The issue at hand was our son’s right to have access to the same school experience as his classmates. If any expression were proper – now as well as then — it would be children’s rights 

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Judging by new data from Hendrick Hudson School District in the Town of Cortlandt, it seems there are an alarming number of folks out there who, when it comes to children’s rights, do the wrong thing … egregiously. 

In conjunction with a child safety company called BusPatrol (buspatrol.com), Hen Hud administrators conducted a pilot surveillance program that recorded, over the course of two months, nearly 400 motorists illegally passing a stopped school bus. If that’s not unthinkable enough, odds are among those breaking the law (yes, it’s a state law) were parents of young children.  

You would think the implied canon of children’s rights includes a child’s right to get on and off a school bus without their safety being seriously imperiled by motorists exhibiting proverbial “depraved indifference to human life.” You would think it is a reflex of conscience to not pass a school bus that has stopped to pick up or discharge students; it’s hard to miss the bus’s bright red STOP arms stretched outward and its lights flashing. Which part of STOP don’t these people understand?

According to Bus Patrol, Westchester is the only county in the New York City region that has not yet authorized a school bus safety program. Imagine if just some of the energy being expended nowadays to advocate parents’ rights was reclaimed to more rigorously school the legion of school bus scofflaws on children’s rights.

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About the Author: Bruce Apar