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Who is to blame for Ottawa school bus drivers quitting?

The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority sent an email to parents this week, telling them that school bus drivers are quitting due to harassment from parents.

However, some are saying there are bigger issues forcing drivers to call it quits.

Samantha and Ryan Clifton have had it with the student transportation minivan that takes their son to school.

“Our son is coming home anywhere between 20 to 40 minutes late after school, which is a long day for a Grade 2,” Samantha says.

But she says that’s not the worst part. 

“It smelled like pure vomit,” Samantha says. “I could see substance that was kind of cleaned but should have smelled like cleaner not vomit. Like pure vomit.”

The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority sent a letter to parents this week, asking them to treat bus drivers with respect.

In the email to families, OSTA said three drivers have already quit due to “verbal abuse and aggression by parents.”

But this family says the blame is being put where it doesn’t belong. 

“First of all, you pay them pennies, and then they’re expecting these drivers to keep all these kids safe. Get treated like garbage from the students because I find kids don’t have any discipline anymore. And then they’re trying to blame the parents that we’re treating them poorly,” Samantha says. “Like let’s wake up and see who’s actually treating them poorly. No wonder why they’re quitting and no one wants to do this.”

Stephen Thompson started driving a school bus in 2019. However, this year, he refused to go back. He says the pay of $18.73 an hour was not worth the trouble.

He asked for $20 per hour and they told him no.

“They throw up, they get noisy, they bounce around,” Thompson says. “Most of the time they’re out of control. You’re exhausted by the time it’s done. You get home and you go, ‘Why am I doing this?’ The pay is so low that if you didn’t have another job, you wouldn’t be feeding your family.”

Another current school bus driver on the verge of quitting said, “I told these students if their behaviour doesn’t change quickly, I am ready to quit driving these students to school. And when the bus doesn’t show up one morning, they can tell their parents the driver quit cause of their behaviour.”

The Cliftons now have to take time off work, just to make sure their son gets to and from school in a timely manner. A 45-minute bus ride, now only 12 minutes by car.

“He gets out of school at 3 p.m. and he’s not getting home till after four sometimes and that’s a long drive for a seven-year-old,” Ryan says. “I feel bad for the people that don’t have transportation. We’re going to give up ours. Probably starting next week, I’ll be driving my son to and from school.”

CTV News reached out to OSTA for a comment on this story and the company did not respond to our request for an interview.

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