It seems like we’re getting more and more information on this. At Fathers and Families we fight every day for equal parenting for fathers. We fight for the rights of children to real relationships with their dads post divorce. Ever so slowly, we see things changing in the right direction. Over the 12 years I’ve been involved in the fathers’ rights movement, I’ve seen a distinct change in attitude on the part of some courts and legislatures.
So now, it’s more common than before for fathers to get equal or almost equal parenting time with their kids after a divorce. It’s far from enough and anti-father forces still oppose fathers’ rights to children and children’s rights to fathers in any way they can.
But what we’re starting to see more of is that it’s not just recalcitrant courts that are the problem; they’re starting to give dads substantial parenting time. But it turns out that what courts give, schools can and do take away.
I’ve written about schools that refuse as a matter of policy to keep dads informed of important issues in the lives of their children. Is the child sick? In some sort of trouble? Does he/she have a big game or school play coming up? Schools only tell the mother assuming that she’s the “primary” or only important parent.
Then a couple of weeks ago I did a piece on schools that simply don’t acknowledge any residence except the mother’s. That means not only that all communication done with a parent is done with her while bypassing the dad altogether. It also means that all the work falls on her shoulders. Maybe Dad would like to do some of that; he probably does. Maybe Mom would like him to share the load; she probably does too. But that’s too bad for both of them because the school has decreed that only she will be informed. Period.
Does the family court’s divorce decree say that Dad gets equal parenting time? Maybe it does, but, as a practical matter, school policy trumps the court order.
And so it is here (Ozarks First, 11/29/10). This time though, it’s the school district’s buses that are the problem. In Springfield, Missouri, they’ll only pick up a child at or near his/her “primary residence.” So if the child has two residences, he/she can only catch the bus at or near the primary one. That of course is usually the mother’s.
Bill Baremore is a devoted dad with two children, Hailey, 12 and Tyler, 9. But he’s the father and that means the school district identifies only his ex-wife’s residence as the one near which the kids can get on and off the bus. From their vantage point at his house, Baremore and the writer of the article observe the goings-on.
“So you can see it stop from the house,” says Joy.
“Correct,” says Bill.
“And they can’t get on it,” says Joy.
“Correct,” adds bill.
They can’t get on the buses that stop in front of their dad’s house because their address of record is Mom’s. Both buses go to and from Carver Middle School and Jeffries Elementary, but since they can only catch the bus at Mom’s, Bill gets no overnight visits on school nights.
So the court gave Bill visitation one weeknight per week, but that might as well be confederate money for all it’s worth to him. He has to be at work too early to take the kids to school himself, so he relies on the buses. But they won’t pick up his kids because the school district doesn’t recognize him as their parent. So he watches as the bus stops, picks up other kids and then pulls away. His daughter and son aren’t there; they’re with Mom. It’s the only way they can get to school.
He’s not alone. His current wife is one of hundreds — maybe thousands — in the same boat. Kids with two homes and only one bus.
The district’s claims – that allowing children to catch buses at either parent’s house might lead to overcrowding or safety issues – sound like excuses, not reasons. The idea that the district can’t figure out how many children need to be picked up, when and where exists somewhere in a land far, far beyond belief. And the district’s claim that children (and parents) will forget where the child is supposed to be dropped off is less credible still.
But whatever the case, school districts continue to do what courts are learning not to – their utmost to separate fathers from their children.