Bus drivers’ last-day-of-school Dairy Queen tradition may be over

Thanks to the creeps among us, these are difficult times for adults who just want to do something for kids.

It’s perfectly understandable that at least one parent is upset that she didn’t know a school bus driver in East Grand Forks, Minn., took the kids to Dairy Queen to celebrate their last day of school.

Still, in years past, this might be the sort of small-town nicety that wouldn’t elicit parental panic. These days? It’s hard to trust anybody.

The Grand Forks Herald says one mother went to the school board this week to complain that she didn’t know it was a tradition among bus drivers in the city to take kids to the Dairy Queen on their last ride of the year.

When she waited for her child — school gets out early on the last day — another mom told her about the tradition. So she drove to the Dairy Queen and found the kids and their buses.

“I was pretty upset,” Jackie Marks said.

She hadn’t gotten any notice and didn’t sign a permission slip.

Superintendent Mike Kolness said the district will try to improve communication but the Herald says Marks thinks the district isn’t taking the transgression seriously.

She believes loose policies on unsanctioned field trips set a poor example for children who might think it is OK to go anywhere with an adult.

“This is not something a bus driver has the power to do,” she said.

Marks, who moved to the area two years ago for her husband’s new Air Force posting, said friends in other areas have told her the driver should have instantly been fired, if not charged with a crime. Local reaction has been tamer.

“I feel a little bit like we’re in some sort of bubble,” she said.

Marks said she is fine with bringing the kids for ice cream, but said it was handled the wrong way.

“Times have changed, too,” Kolness said. “We need to make sure we’re doing things right.”

This might be a tradition best left to die in a changed world. Thanks to the creeps among us, school bus drivers can no longer be trusted with kids.

  • jon
    • Ralphy

      The irony is that such a crime is much more likely to be done by someone the child knows. “Danger Stranger” has brought us two generations of statistically unwarranted fear.
      The result – a fear of those that aren’t “us” and kids that stay inside, consuming calories and media.

      • jon

        “Statistically unwarranted fear” is set to replace “in god we trust”, first on squad cars, then on money… and eventually replacing “brave” at the end of the national anthem.. (cramming 10 syllables into one note might be a problem for most national anthems, but american exceptionalism and the star spangled banner already having the last note regularly stretched into 10-12 notes means it won’t be an issue)

  • AL287

    “She believes loose policies on unsanctioned field trips set a poor
    example for children who might think it is OK to go anywhere with an

    “I feel a little bit like we’re in some sort of bubble,” she said.

    Kids have known about “stranger danger” for several generations now. If her child doesn’t know not to go with an adult stranger it’s a little late for that lesson now.

    We used to have “helicopter” parents. I think we are seeing a new breed of anxious, worried parent—the bubble parent.

    By all means, let’s fire the bus driver for doing something nice for children to celebrate the end of the school year, obviously a tradition that has been going on for some time now in East Grand Forks, a town that was destroyed by a major flood 20 years ago.

    Bad things can happen at any time on any given day but the difference is the news travels in a nanosecond in the 21st Century instead of in actual real time.

    I trust people until they give me a reason not to. I am a happy relaxed, person as a result. I’ve got better things to do than worry that a boogeyman is going to jump out at me from around a corner.

    Jackie Marks is the only parent that complained. If this is settled by the school administrators like most others, a lovely tradition will disappear because of the small number of creepy adults among us that get 90% of the news coverage.

    • RBHolb

      The tradition does not need to disappear. Send a note home telling parents about it. Making it disappear seems a bit drastic (and, probably designed to punish Ms. Marks for making waves).

  • Mike

    >> Marks, who moved to the area two years ago for her husband’s new Air Force posting, said friends in other areas have told her the driver should have instantly been fired, if not charged with a crime.

    I’m glad I don’t have the same friends as Jackie Marks. I have a feeling she’s not much fun either.

    • MikeB

      And as an outsider destroying a tradition not likely to endear herself to any of the locals

    • X.A. Smith

      We should always instantly do exactly what her friends in other areas think.

  • John

    It’s a pretty big leap from “the person who drives me home every day took us all to DQ on the last day of school” to

    >>She believes loose policies on unsanctioned field trips set a poor example for children who might think it is OK to go anywhere with an adult.

    I’d like to think my kids are smart enough to make that distinction. Even back when they were in Kindergarten.

    • John

      I should also note that it would have been a good idea to at least send a heads up note home ahead. We are inundated with information from my kids’ school about EVERYTHING every week. I hardly read the stuff any more, because so much of it is not particularly germane to our lives.

  • Guest

    Sad sigh. See the other article about Senior Notes being dropped from future yearbooks due to a hidden racist message.

    I recall the days when nobody was worried (and nothing happened) when we sent kids around the neighborhood to collect for the paper. They’d carry a bank bag with cash and wait inside homes for cash to be found. Hitch hiking to Duluth in winter was a reasonable plan. Grade-school kids on bikes were out of reach of parents roaming the neighborhood. Front doors weren’t locked during the day.

    But then nobody had heard of drive-by-shootings.

    sigh 🙁

    • BJ

      >I recall the days when nobody was worried (and nothing happened) …
      >Grade-school kids on bikes were out of reach of parents roaming the neighborhood.

      I’m going to be 44 this summer and I don’t recall a time when something didn’t happen. Jacob is the first of many names that comes to mind.

      • Ralphy

        There has never been a time when something didn’t happen. Our media system is much better at trumpeting such events, and the crime is much more likely to get reported.
        Statistically (small comfort, I know), such events are less likely today than when I was a child, according to the FBI. We are more likely to learn of these crimes, but they do occur less often than a few generations ago.

        • BJ

          Yep. Also if we have 2x as many crime events, or what ever else, it’s because we have twice as many people -> also why stats like those are usually reported as a rate per 1000.


          1950 -> 151,325,798
          2010 -> 308,745,538

          • Parenthood is a matter of weighing acceptable risk. Stats are easy. Parenthood is hard.

    • jon

      //But then nobody had heard of drive-by-shootings.

      So there was a time in this country when you could legally purchase a .45 caliber machine gun (thompson repeater) drive by shootings happened then for sure… I believe we called them “the good ol’ days”…

    • Kassie

      I don’t know how old you are, but my good friend was raped and murdered riding her bike to school in the 90s.

      In the 70s, it was discovered that my mom’s dentist was molesting kids. We all know now that priests were definitely active during that time too molesting kids.

  • kevins

    My four children had a long ride to and from school because we live in the country and in the largest (by square miles) district in the area. We depended on the bus drivers and they often took care of misbehaving riders competently, as well as made the occasional Tasty Freeze run. Boy, did the kids like the ice cream and they to a person, have great admiration for the drivers. It was simply a human thing to do and not a boundary violation to us. Oh well.

  • Al

    Without notice, even, much less a permission slip? This parent says HELL NO. Give me warning that this is happening, and I’ll be first in line to buy the Dilly Bars.

    • Mike

      I agree. I am sure the intentions were appropriate, but the implementation of the event was not well thought out.

    • KariBemidji

      It’s an easy note home (or email, text, phone call. We get all four for conferences): ‘On such and such date, the buses will be stopping at DQ for their annual end of the school year celebration. If you don’t want your child to participate, please pick them up by 3:10 at their school.’

    • Jeff C.

      See Ralphy’s comment, written 10 minutes after yours. It sounds like this was a well-known regular event in the community and that most parents knew this was going on, even without official notification. That said, Kari makes a good point that it would have taken someone 10 minutes to write and send an official notification. My guess is that they didn’t because of what Ralphy wrote about.

      • Al

        A well-known event, unless you’re new to the neighborhood, or you don’t socialize with the same people as others, or… Excuses.

        A note. Not difficult.

  • Al

    Blaming millennials for ruining yet another tradition in 3… 2… 1…

    • Greg W

      Not unless the millennials are creepers.

    • RazorSky

      Well it is old millennial who are probably the parents of the kid. But yea it’s pretty sad state of affairs these days.

      • Al

        [Box checked.]

        • NewsCut commenter bingo?

          • Gary F

            Great idea!

            Or NewsCut Jeopardy!

          • I’ll take “Blame the current generation” for $400, Alex.


  • Gary F

    Just think, they could have driven them over across the river to Olive Garden. I hear the food is pretty good over there.

    • Angry Jonny

      I see what you did there.

      • Gary F

        Wondering if our friend Marilyn has ever reviewed the Dairy Queen on the other side of the river?

        • Angry Jonny

          Don’t want to start a controversy, now.

          • Gary F

            I can just imagine the rave reviews for the Buster Bar.

  • Ralphy

    This is a small town tradition that dates back at least 50 years. I am in my mid-60’s and remember getting my annual last-day cone. What a treat!. I have no idea if the school or the bus driver paid. It wasn’t us kids. It would be extremely difficult to fire the bus driver for a “school sanctioned” activity.

    With a 50 year history, does the school really need to make a formal announcement and require a permission slip? What about the 1 or 2 kids that inevitably will forget to bring their slip?

    Kids that are raised in a climate of fear grow up to be afraid of the world – afraid of those that don’t look or dress like them. And we can see where that has gotten us.

    • asiljoy

      “With a 50 year history, does the school really need to make a formal announcement and require a permission slip?”

      Yes, because I haven’t lived in the community for 50 years and so am not included in the local gossip grapevine. I would be out of my mind scared when my kid didn’t show up where I expected him.

      Call it what you want, but it’s common sense to communicate where you’re going to take my kid and give me veto power. Schools send these notices all the time. Why excuses for this one? Oversight? Sure it happens, but no excuses. Send one next year.

      • Ralphy

        I see your point and I agree.
        I don’t agree with punishing the bus driver for what is essentially a school sanctioned activity.
        I need to to come to terms with the different climate kids are raised in.

        I was raised with “go outside”.
        I would ride my bike into town to the little strip mall where farmers would hire pickers when I was just 10. I was riding in stranger’s trucks with a handful of other kids to work their fields without ever being concerned about stranger danger.

        If I had checked in to report that I was going to ride my bike into town with my buddies or go swimming at the lake, my parents would have thought I had a problem.

        My dad’s dad came over to the US with a couple of cousins and brothers. I they were 14 – 18 years old. Got off the boat with a few bucks in their pocket and not speaking a word of English. Can’t imagine my grandkids doing the same.

        My dad had a mantra – a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. What I’m trying to say is I grew up with a completely different paradigm regarding strangers and danger.

  • RazorSky

    So you trust this Man/Woman (Bus Driver) To drive your kids to school every day. Why are you upset when they treat your kids like kids and buy them ice-cream?

    The only reason to be upset would be if you had a very tight schedule and the child was late or caused you to be late, but that isn’t worth bringing up to school board. Or if a child had an allergy to something say dairy.

    Calm down, nobody wants to abduct a child.

    Also this in the future can be solved with an email/text message that I’m sure most school districts have.

    • // Why are you upset when they treat your kids like kids and buy them ice-cream?

      That one’s easy. Because the bus never arrived bringing a woman’s daughter home from school.

  • Chris

    For another perspective, my kid has a peanut allergy and Dairy Queen is absolutely not somewhere she can eat; it could kill her. … I would be livid if I’d found out after-the-fact this happened. I don’t care if other kids go there, but I’d need to know ahead-of-time to pick my kid up early. A note or email to parents is warranted.

  • Tom Coombe

    Bob – a tradition best left to die? You can’t be serious. The bus driver, who is trusted by these people to take their children to and from school, simply did a nice thing. End of story.

    • Nobody is arguing that it’s not a nice thing. Nor is the fact it is the end of the story.

      • Tom Coombe

        The tone of your story seems to put the onus on the school and/or the driver and there’s a suggestion that this tradition end. I would suggest the parent overreacted, badly, and this is much ado about nothing.

        • Well, nobody needs to make up an inference for the tone of the story since the point was stated in the first sentence:

          “Thanks to the creeps among us, these are difficult times for adults who just want to do something for kids.”

          Blame the creeps.

          Everything is much ado about nothing until the moment a “something” happens and then everyone wants to take to the pitchforks and lanterns.

          It’s easier just to do the job and take the kids from school to home, wish the kids a “happy summer” and move on with the day.

          • Tom Coombe

            You’re the guy who suggested the tradition should end. I would suggest the bus driver did nothing wrong and nothing needs to change. It’s the parent who overreacted.and made something out of nothing.

          • Well, again, when your child doesn’t arrive home from school, it’s not nothing.

            And, yeah, there are lots of nice things that people have given up over the years because of others who ruined it or presented real or imagined dangers.

            Sad? Sure. But that’s the world.

            If kids don’t get a free dilly bar, Grand Forks will still be OK.

            Blame the creeps.

          • lusophone

            When my kids don’t arrive on time at their bus stop I just call dispatch and they usually give me an answer pretty quickly as to their whereabouts. I feel like people need to calm down more and not assume the worst. We’d all be better off as a result.

  • joetron2030

    I grew up in the late-70s and 80s a complete latch key kid. During the summers, I would leave the house in the morning and show up for dinner. My parents probably had no idea most of the time where I was. One worked the graveyard shift and the other worked days. A parent was home during the day, but when they’re sleeping, it’s kind of hard to say we were being properly supervised.

    Though I spent most of my play time in the neighborhood, there were times when I would ride my bike or skateboard further afield. There were also times when I would take the bus from the Northern suburbs to downtown Minneapolis and Uptown to skateboard around.

    While I look fondly on those days of complete freedom, as a parent now I can’t imagine allowing my kids to do the same. I’d be worried out of my head. Times have changed and becoming a parent really changes how we think of these sorts of things.

    In any case, hopefully, a bit of understanding and common sense will prevail. No bus drivers will be fired and the schools will send notice home at the end of the next school year. Lesson learned and families new to the area will get the chance to knowingly participate in a long running annual tradition.

  • AmiSchwab

    times have changed. sadly for the worst. fire the bus driver?? no i think the mother needs to chill a bit and learn a bit more about the area she just moved to.

  • jpryce

    Maybe Ms. Marks should consider home schooling her daughter. It would allow her to have her daughter in her sights at all times and a bus driver would not have to worry about losing his/her job over a stop at the local Dairy Queen.