First, the school has an official policy that no child may get off the bus without an adult waiting for them. I don't really agree with this policy.
As an aside, walking and biking to school is forbidden (it is on a very busy road, but really?). The pick-up lines can take 20 minutes or more.
I was a latch-key kid from fourth grade up. Many kids in that day were. This does require parents to be sensitive to their kids' maturity. It also requires some lessons in common sense (how to answer the phone, whether to answer the door, not to use appliances, etc.). I felt grown-up and empowered. I'd fix myself a salad (yes, a salad) then read, play or (sometimes) watch tv until mom got home two hours later. I bear no scars. Many of my friends did the same thing, and (more or less) did fine. Some watched more tv than others and some ate more junk food than others (they can only eat what is at the house, by the way).
This is not a message only to gripe about the school eliminating elementary latch-key kids, though. There is a more Draconian policy.
The pressing policy here is that the bus driver will only let the kids off the bus for someone they know. What does that even mean? She let them off for my husband because the kids said he was their dad and likewise for my father.
I use a variety of different college kids college kids for after-care. The college kids do a great job (usually), I have a steady supply (I do not use current students, but have many former students on campus), and they can usually find their own replacements for the inevitable sick day or college obligation. I (usually) know in advance and can send a note to the driver for this inane policy.
If I forget to leave a note (or don't know in time to do so)... the driver objects. That said, she has, sometimes, let the kids off for unexepected babysitters (to whom she delivers scathing rebukes).
But, she absolutely refused to let them off the bus for a male student. She returned the kids to the school and the school called me. I had to reassure the lady in the office that, indeed, I did hire a male babysitter and he would be perfectly fine to send the kids with. Then, he had to pick them up at the school. As an aside, he did not have a booster seat so, technically, he broke the law at that time by driving the kids the 1.5 miles to our house. That would have, of course, been unecessary if the driver had just let the kids off the bus.
How does the school imagine that the usual sitter was absent and another young (male) college kid was standing in? What are the options?
- The usual kid called a (male, in this case) student to stand in due to illness.
- The usual kid is running late and asked a friend to fill in for a minute.
- The usual student is bound and gagged in my house and this nefarious looking college man is standing in ready to kidnap my kids.
- The usual student forgot to babysit today and this man happened to be waiting to take her place should she fail to show.
Can we safely discount the likelihood of items three and four? According to Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids - if you wanted your child to be abducted by a stranger - you would need to leave them (on average) on a curb for 780,000 years. This doesn't make stranger abductions any less tragic... but, this is not something the school needs policies to protect against.
Further and most importantly - why trust the women and not the men? What has happened to a sexist society where we don't trust men with children? It is any wonder that some men are disengaged in parenting? Do we not predispose them as such by assuming them untrustworthy with children until they have their own?
And, I may be alone here... but, I have certainly seen women marginalize the male contribution by suggesting that they aren't as good at diapering, dressing the kid, or whatever. Do we wonder why men often don't participate fully? Men may parent a little differently, but maybe we all need that balance.