I was heartbroken, as indeed every decent person should be, at the murder of six Tennessee schoolchildren last week. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of heartbreaking news and this quickly disappeared off the national news headlines. This specific incident, though, haunted me. I was also angered at how little attention it received.
Here are the basics. A speeding Chattanooga school bus was driven off its designated route; it overturned and slammed into a tree. So far six children have died with many others injured. Going back months, there are numerous records of parents and students lodging complaints against the driver, Johnthony Walker, for reckless driving as well as for cursing and threatening the students on his bus. The school’s principal also brought her concerns to the attention of school officials. Walker, too, made numerous complaints, clearly showing himself to be unhappy with his work.
I understand that in legal terms the driver is being charged with vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving, rather than murder. That doesn’t cut it for me in human terms. We have an extremely unsatisfactory situation that was kicked down the road until it exploded in tragedy. Now, after deaths and injuries, it received its ten minutes of media attention, producing no outcries from President Obama and evading the interest of the chattering media class. The parents, the teachers and the principal who saw how unfit the driver was are surely guilt and grief-stricken. This will haunt them for the rest of their lives.
What about the rest of us? Why did this move off the front page so quickly? Does anyone doubt that had the driver been white, the president and press would be shouting from the rooftops about how racism (and Donald Trump and the Republican Party) were guilty of these deaths? If the driver shot the children instead of causing the bus to crash, the president and press would relentlessly focus on this incident.
Yet, because the liberal hobgoblins aren’t found in this case, this isn’t worthy of attention. Shouldn’t we be asking how it is that someone who should have been immediately fired when the complaints against him were verified was still entrusted with children’s lives? Shouldn’t we be asking if he was still driving because of union rules, fears of lawsuits or any other legal handcuffs placed on the wrists of the school district? Shouldn’t we be telling parents that in the final analysis they should not place their trust in teachers, principals and schools but need to protect their children themselves? Shouldn’t we be demanding to know what requirements exist for anyone working in the public school system whether as a bus driver, janitor or teacher? Shouldn’t the Black Lives Matter protesters who have all the time in the world to object to November’s election results, claim that the six lives of these Black children matter too? Shouldn’t we ask whether there are tools that parents in a wealthy district would have had at their disposal had a similarly unfit driver been uncovered?
Millions of parents around this country entrust their children to the government educational system. All too often they get little education. Is it too much to ask that at the very least their physical lives should be protected?