My column of Oct. 16 contained a complaint from Linda Rabben about rowdy teenage behavior on Metrorail. Ms. Rabben suggested that teachers instruct students how to behave on public transportation. She made no mention of the role of parents in teaching manners.
That touched off some passionate letters from teachers, who say that they have enough to do and that this should be a parental responsibility. Please read on.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
After reading Linda Rabben's letter concerning the screaming middle school students on the Metro Red Line [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 16], I felt an obligation to respond.
She stated that "school staff should teach children how to behave on public transportation, or schoolchildren should not be permitted to travel on Metro in unaccompanied groups."
First of all, I am not condoning the behavior of the students in any way. However, I do not believe it is the responsibility of the schools to teach children how to behave on public transportation.
Not once in Ms. Rabben's letter was responsibility asked of the parents of these children.
All too often, we forget that parents, not the schools, hold the largest amount of responsibility in a child's life.
As a District public school teacher, I can affirm that we strive to teach our students proper social skills, but those skills need to be reinforced at home.
Please remember that if parents decide their children should be using public transportation to return home from school, it is their responsibility to communicate rules and expectations.
After students are dismissed at 3:30 p.m., if parents have given permission for their children to return home on their own, schools cannot restrict those students from traveling on Metro in unsupervised groups.
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
In reply to your column titled "Facing Metro's Precocious Terrors" [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 16], why would a teacher be with "15 screaming middle schoolers" during evening rush hour?
When did it become the job/duty/responsibility of teachers to ride public transportation with students at the end of the school day?
This apparently was not a school-sponsored field trip. It was evening rush hour! These children were on their way home, and the school day was over. Teachers were off duty.
Teachers have enough to do in the seven hours they have students at school each day. Why would the burden of teaching children to act appropriately on public transportation after hours be placed on teachers, or any school staff members?
Would this not be the job of parents/guardians? Metro police? Community leaders?
I am even more appalled by the Metro proposal to offer free passes to school staffers to baby-sit for children on public transportation before and after school.
Why not offer the free passes to the people responsible for these children: the parents? Let the parents get a firsthand view of how their children behave in public.
I am furious at the belief/assumption by some that teachers should carry this responsibility. How preposterous!
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
In response to Linda Rabben's complaint about being trapped with "15 screaming middle schoolers" on the Red Line during evening rush hour [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 16], I ask her to reevaluate the responsibility of those children's teachers for the misbehavior.
I find it laughable that Rabben suggests that "school staff should teach children how to behave on public transportation." The last I checked, I wasn't responsible for teaching children how to behave after school hours, though unfortunately it has become necessary in my teaching.
Teachers often witness outrageous behavior in their classrooms, including eye-rolling, name-calling, insubordination and bullying.
We work incredibly hard to teach and model appropriate behavior in between enriching our students' minds in a variety of subject areas.
I ask Ms. Rabben, where do parents fall into the equation? The last thing dedicated teachers need is another complaint lodged at them regarding the misbehavior of children (after school) relating to their job performance.
I ask Ms. Rabben why she fails to point her waving finger at parents or, more accurately, the children themselves? Middle school children are capable of listening and choosing to correct and modify their behavior when asked.
What's more disturbing than reading Ms. Rabben's letter was the apparent absence of an adult on the train speaking up and addressing those students about their behavior. Amazingly, communicating with children can be done respectfully and assertively.
I hope that Ms. Rabben is not a mother herself, for I fear her expectations of her children's teachers would be absolutely ridiculous.
Valley Elementary School
Jefferson, Frederick County
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I read with interest and empathy the letter from Linda Rabben about being victimized by obnoxious, rowdy middle school students on a Red Line Metro train [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 16]. I recently had a similar experience on a Metrobus.
When I boarded a bus at the Medical Center Metro station around 7 p.m. one recent weeknight, I could hear them before I even entered the bus -- a group of about 20 teenage boys and girls -- engaged in a loud and profane argument. The noise was deafening, and the air blue from the foul language spewing from these young people.
To his credit, the bus driver did go to the rear of the bus to request that they quiet down, but his effort was futile. The noise continued as the bus made its way out of the Medical Center Station and continued until I exited the bus near my home off Old Georgetown Road. As I left, I thanked the driver for trying to rectify the situation.
That was not the first time I have experienced such behavior on this bus route, but it is the first time I saw a driver address it directly. Unfortunately, there was not much else he could do.
I am sure he was loath to eject such a large group of children; they appeared to be of varying ages, but probably all were minors. I think he might have been considered irresponsible to put them off the bus before their intended destination, given their ages.
To call Metro police or the county police to address the situation would have delayed all of us from getting to our destinations and getting away from these obnoxious brats.
I don't know what Metro's policy is with regard to such situations occurring on buses, but I felt sorry for the driver as well as myself. I wish something could be done to ensure that this scenario does not repeat itself, but I am not optimistic.
Catharine E. Reeves
My sympathies. Metro says that if you feel threatened by unruly adolescents, you should try to contact, or have the driver contact, Metro Transit Police.
If it's intolerable, you might step off the bus and catch the next one. An inconvenience, yes, but you would at least be exerting some control over your plight. Otherwise, ignoring the rowdies might be the best approach, difficult as that may be.
As to the proper role of teachers, I recognize that teachers already have their hands full, and that parents should have primary responsibility for teaching their children manners in public, but a lot of home situations provide inadequate supervision and teaching.
Seems to me teachers might take a moment to explain proper behavior on Metro, where we clearly have a problem.
The Blue-Bubble Exemption
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Two days ago, I was motoring at 9 a.m. on eastbound Interstate 66. HOV-2 regulations were still in effect. From Manassas to Nutley Street, I was in front of a four-door Ford with a male driver inside, one or two extra aerials on the car and a blue, bubble-shaped light on the dashboard.
Was this a policeman in a unmarked car? I would wager that it was. He was in the HOV lane, all by himself, all the way to Nutley. If he is a police officer, is he exempt?
The use of blue lights is supposed to be restricted to law enforcement. Fire equipment and ambulances use red emergency lights. Because unmarked police vehicles come in all forms (Prince William has used sports cars), I'd assume that was a police vehicle. And if so, yes, law enforcement is exempt from Virginia HOV restrictions, whether on or off duty.
If you are aware of a vendor who sells blue lights to the public, I'd like to know about it.
Update on Arundel Projects
Here is an update on two of the largest state highway projects in Anne Arundel County:
(1) A new interchange at the junction of Routes 2 and 50 will provide easier access for vehicles traveling to and from the two roadways in the fast-growing Parole area.
The $13 million project also provides improved connections at the confluence of nearby Routes 2 and 450 and Jennifer Road.
Construction started in spring 2003 and should be finished by the end of this year. The project is running a few months behind schedule because of inclement weather.
(2) New bridges on Rowe Boulevard over College Creek and Weems Creek, leading to the statehouse, are on schedule. This project involves the replacement of the College Creek Bridge and redecking of the Weems Creek Bridge. Both are about 50 years old.
The new bridge work will include bike lanes in both directions, connecting to existing bike paths. It is good to see consideration of bike lanes in road projects. With rising gasoline prices, more and more motorists are looking for alternative transportation modes.
This $30 million project began in April 2004 and should be completed by the end of next summer.
Jobs, Commutes Change
Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I am writing in response to the letter from Terence Heron of Arlington regarding living close to where one works [Dr. Gridlock, Oct. 13]. My wife and I live in Alexandria, three miles from Reagan National Airport. For years, we both worked at National for the same major airline. During that time we used Metro, and I would bike to work.
I now work at Dulles International Airport. What does Mr. Heron suggest for us? Move in the middle so that both of us have to commute?
His view would work if there were only one breadwinner. It sounds as though he is assuming that half of the couple stays at home.
There is not one solution to commuting. Each family has to come up with what works best for them. I am approaching retirement, and it makes sense for us to stay put.
Living close to one's job is difficult in a two-income family. People change jobs and job locations. Then what?
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
Dr. Gridlock appears Thursday in The Extra and Sunday in the Metro section. You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.