Bullying ordeal on school bus exposes duty of care gap
IMAGINE if your 13-year-old son came home one day with bruises, a black eye, and swelling on the back of his head from a violent bullying attack on the school bus.
What would you expect to be done about it?
This was the experience faced by one Northern Rivers parent, who said his son's ordeal was compounded by the inadequate response from the bus company involved.
Jason Hone said while the bully was made to sit at the front of the bus after hitting his son, on the next school day, the same student "tormented" his son for about 20 minutes, threatening him with violence.
When Mr Hone complained to the bus company, it was suggested his son sit up the front. He said that was unacceptable because his son - a victim of bullying - was being punished with segregation.
Now his son refuses to take the bus.
Mr Hone said his enquiries to the bus company for help had been ignored.
"In all this time I've continuously emailed the owner and directors of the bus company to ask for policies and procedures, but I've never once been contacted by the manager or owner," he said.
"All I'm looking for is a solution... not to segregate the kid who's being abused."
Casino Bus Service did not respond to an enquiry by The Northern Star.
The incident has raised questions about who is responsible for 'law and order' on school buses.
St Mary's Catholic College in Casino, where Mr Hone's son attends school, said in a statement that duty of care for students was passed from the school to the bus company when students board the bus.
"Both the Principal and Assistant Principal have been in contact with Casino Bus Service in relation to the alleged incident," a spokesman said, adding the investigation was "ongoing".
In a statement, Transport for NSW confirmed it received a complaint from a parent "following an incident on a contracted school service operated by BusCo."
"BusCo interviewed the driver who reported pulling the bus over to deal with a situation that was occurring on the bus," a Transport for NSW spokesman said.
"The driver did not directly witness the cause of the altercation, nor were any students directed to sit in any seats as a result of this incident."
Casino High School, attended by the student responsible for the alleged bullying incident, issued a statement via the Department of Education saying it "follows up any reports of bullying on school buses, and takes disciplinary action as appropriate".
It confirmed disciplinary action was taken against "two Casino High students" involved in the bullying.
Meanwhile, Mr Hone's son has been left traumatised by the incident.
He said he had "grave concerns" that a company "we pay as taxpayers" was not accountable.
"These kids, they've learned that this (bullying behaviour) is okay. It doesn't teach them well for the future."
Transport for NSW said any bus incidents should be reported directly to the operator, or through its customer support line 131 500 or online at transportnsw.info.