BusRadio suspended in one school district, starts in another
February 1, 2008
LITTLETON – For the past five months, school bus driver Danny Kenny has been fighting. He's been trying to get his school district to drop the radio system he's supposed to play for his kids. It finally did – for now.
"They did this last week – asked us not to play BusRadio anymore until they can check to see if it's a good fit for them," said Kenny, a driver with the Littleton School District.
BusRadio is a program offered free to school districts. Radio systems are installed in each bus to broadcast music, commercials, announcements and safety messages via satellite. BusRadio even offers districts some money through a portion of the advertisements, which the company claims runs only about four minutes every hour.
BusRadio advertises itself as playing age-appropriate music without explicit lyrics. Kenny says that's partially true. He claims that the songs may be technically clean, but the themes are too adult for young kids. He says he's heard songs, for example, about suicide or about stripping. Plus, Kenny thinks the music tempts kids to find out more when they get off the bus.
"Do you want to introduce a kid to, Ne-Yo and say, 'Hey this guy is a great singer. He's a great artist and this is a great song.' And then when he buys the album you find out there are other songs on there you don't want them listen to," said Kenny.
Littleton Schools spokesperson Diane Leiker says the district has suspended operations of BusRadio indefinitely until it investigates it further. It will seek input from drivers, parents, students and assess how it is working in nearby school districts before deciding whether to continue with the program.
BusRadio spokesperson Wesley Eberle says parents should feel confident BusRadio is safe for their kids.
"Our editing standards far exceed FM radio," he said. "Not only lyrics, but in subject matter."
Despite's Littleton's hesitations, Denver Public Schools will move forward with its plans to unveil BusRadio later this spring. Kenny has contacted DPS with his concerns, but district leaders say they've done their research.
"Radio on school busses does help in behavior. It keeps students attentive," said Pauline Gervais, executive director of transportation for DPS. "The music is selective and age-appropriate. So, we don't have music that would be playing that would be more appropriate for a high school student versus an elementary student."
BusRadio offers different selections for elementary, middle, and high school students which play a different selection of songs.
"If we feel there's music or a song that's inappropriate, I have no problem with calling BusRadio and saying that's not a song that should be playing on DPS busses," said Gervais.
Kenny says he just wants all parents to be aware of the door BusRadio opens for kids. He says while "clean" versions may be played on the busses, students can find the "explicit" versions online.
"What you're doing is, you get into kids' heads," said Kenny. "They go out and buy it."
Eberle says neither BusRadio nor the school district should be responsible for what students do at home.
"Outside of the bus, it's up to the parents," he said.
Gervais calls Kenny's concerns a stretch.
"I don't think what students are going to be listening to on the bus is what's going to sway their decision as to what they're going to listen to or not," she said.
BusRadio was founded in 2004 and is currently based near Boston. The company says it's in 24 states and installed in more than 10,000 busses. The system also allows for GPS tracking.
BusRadio does provide a sampling of its songs on its website. But, full play lists, lyrics, and song themes are not available. Kenny says he just wants parents to be fully aware of what their kids are listening to back and forth from school.
"The parents had no idea what was being played and who the artists were and some of these artists are rather objectionable for anybody with some of the songs that they sing," said Kenny.