As moms prepare to flip the calendar to August and get the kids back-to-school, one Pennsylvania mother is preparing to go to trial for boarding a school bus to care for her child.
Tara Keener, an ER nurse, was walking down her driveway when she looked through the windows of her son’s yellow school bus and saw the other kids standing over him, yelling that something was wrong. “Help, he’s not moving,” she heard them say about her kindergartner. “We can’t wake him up.”
Keener ran to the bus and climbed the steps, but the driver stopped her. It’s against the law for parents to board, he said.
Unsurprisingly to Momma-bear types, Keener was undeterred. “My focus was on my son,” she told the court in a preliminary hearing after she was hit with a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully entering a school bus. Turns out the kid was sleeping. Hard. The bus driver says he slept on the bus all the time.
Keener has been charged with a third-degree misdemeanor, and she could face a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Her attorney protests that she and other parents entered the bus the first few days of school as standard procedure to help the kids get over their fears. He says his client would be a hero if she hopped a fence to save a drowning child – even if the fence had a sign reading “Keep Out.”
So could it happen here?
I asked Mia Martin, RISD’s in-house counsel, who says it’s not illegal for a parent simply to board a school bus in Texas, but “the Texas Education Code makes it a Class C misdemeanor to disrupt or interfere with the transportation of students to or from school or a school-sponsored activity in a school bus or other district or county vehicle.” She says Texas, like many other states, aims to safeguard students being transported to and from school.
Keener has declined a plea deal, fearing it might jeopardize her nursing job and insisting she’s done nothing wrong. “I just don’t see 12 people convicting this woman,” said her attorney. We’ll see.