382. Rosa Parks Revisited

Two girls came into class today quite animated. They had come to school by bus, and according to their story, the bus driver had made the girls sit in the back of the bus and the boys sit in front. With smiles on their faces, they told me they were angry. I believed them. There can be all kinds of reasons for smiles. I sometimes smile when I’m saying something important. I’m not sure why. It could be embarrassment or nervousness. Or maybe I enjoy being taken seriously.
But I’m not going to dwell on my problem. These two girls were talking about something important, and regardless of what their smiles meant, I chose to take them seriously. I told them that their story reminded me of Rosa Parks. Both of them knew who Rosa Parks was, and they walked away speaking of plans to right the situation. In a way, I hope I didn’t cause trouble. I don’t want authorities to tell me I have to stop volunteering in the school. But I don’t think they will. In another way, I hope I inspired two children to think more about an injustice they’d identified, and find a way to act on it.
I tried to think about what could have inspired the bus driver to segregate the genders that way. It wasn’t hard to imagine. The back of the bus is furthest from the driver, and it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that certain members of a certain gender were doing certain things back there that the bus driver didn’t want done. I don’t know specifically what was going on back there, but I remember riding on school buses, and being a good boy, I didn’t sit back there.
Having the boys sit in front and the girls in back may have solved the immediate problem the bus driver had identified. And as far as I know, bus drivers are not required to take courses in child development or learn about the implications of public policies. As far as I know, they’re just supposed to know about driving the bus. And driving a school bus is not like driving other buses. It can cause a lot more headaches.
I don’t think the bus driver should have done what he did (if, in act, he did it). I don’t think it’s wise to do something that can be construed as a punishment and include people you don’t intend to punish. If my guess about the driver’s motivation is correct, the two girls I spoke to hadn’t done anything wrong, and had not been sent to the back of the bus as a punishment for being female. And there were probably others, both male and female, who were innocent, and who nevertheless felt as if they were being punished.
I don’t think there is going to be an incident similar to Rosa Parks’ heroic refusal. I don’t think there will be an Amherst Bus Boycott. I’ll show this article to the principal, and I suspect that if he doesn’t already know about this situation, and hasn’t already dealt with it, he will.

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