Radio policy adopted for school bus drivers 'Special care' must be exercised in choice of stations

November 21, 1997|By Kristi E. Swartz and Elaine Tassy | Kristi E. Swartz and Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County school board has approved a policy that requires bus drivers to take into consideration the ears of their young charges when they choose radio stations to play in the buses.

The policy, adopted by a 5-2 vote late Wednesday, says bus drivers should exercise "special care" to "avoid the broadcasting of questionable or undesirable materials."

Board members Michael J. McNelly of Tracys Landing and Joseph H. Foster of Linthicum opposed the policy, arguing that the radios should be turned off.

The action came a month after the County Council of PTAs voted in support of the policy.

The policy stems from a complaint by Diane Brown of Manhattan Beach, who became concerned when her 10-year-old complained that shows discussing provocative sexual themes were carried over the school bus radio. Brown brought it to the attention of her child's principal at Belvedere Elementary and the school board, which ordered its administrators to draft a policy.

"Announcers are aiming their conversations at adults for shock value," Brown said Wednesday. "You can't screen what's coming over the radio."

Winship Wheatley, head of the school transportation department, argued against turning off the radios in a meeting last August. He said that music rewards students for good behavior, that news reports help keep drivers informed of school closings, traffic snarls and closed roads, and that radios in general keep drivers alert. He called it a "tool for student management" to calm rowdy children.

Opponents argued that religious messages, some lyrics and dialogue between talk show hosts and callers are not always appropriate for students and that, once they hear sexually explicit material, it can never be erased from their minds.

Instead of voting in August, the board asked for more feedback from parent groups, and Wheatley turned to the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs, which represents 70 of the 127 schools in the county.

At a two-hour meeting Oct. 16 at Four Seasons Elementary School in Gambrills, Robert C. Leib, the schools' director of business services, said that only three parents have complained about bus music in the past three years, while 50,000 students ride the buses every day. None of the Baltimore or Washington metropolitan counties have policies prohibiting radio use while students are on board, he said.

The council voted 15-12 that night to support the county's proposal.

Pub Date: 11/21/97

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