Stop for the School Bus
Chris Murzin has heard all the excuses. Drivers who pass the school bus when the stop signal is out tell him they didn’t see the bus, or didn’t know they were supposed to stop for it.
A few respond with hostility. Most are surprised to see the University Park father approaching their vehicles to demand a word.
“Most people are not going to confront somebody else,” Murzin said. “I do with the hope of driving awareness and hoping they will understand and not do it again.”
Murzin is motivated by the plight of his son Jack, a junior at Highland Park High School.
While most students drive or ride to school without much thought, Jack waits patiently each morning for his dedicated bus driver, Aphonso Polk, to pick him up. When Polk arrives, Murzin or his wife, Christina, slowly roll Jack in his wheelchair to the curb. A hydraulic lift raises Jack from street level to the bus, where Polk secures him for the short trip. It’s a monotonous routine that is repeated twice a day throughout the school year.
“All it’s going to take is one wrong move while Jack is in his wheel chair on the lift,” Murzin said. “You can imagine the scene.”
State law forbids drivers in both directions from passing school buses that are stopped with their stop signs extended. Those who do face fines of up to $2,500. The Parks Cities have few school buses since HPISD only provides transportation for special needs students. Still, the same laws apply.
Kelly Waterman, whose daughter Happy is in the HPHS Transitions program, said she once saw five people speed by stopped buses as she was taking her daughter to school.
“I was horrified at how many were going by,” she said. “It made me furious because these weren’t kids — the drivers were adults. They should know better.”
Murzin said he sees violators on a regular basis.
“I wish I could get into the psyche of people that choose not to accept what the law is,” Murzin said.
He surmises that many of them are simply in a hurry and looking for a reason to justify what they are doing. He often sees people pause but not completely stop.
“One driver passed the bus and another car that had stopped behind it,” Murzin said. “He told me he thought the car ‘was with the bus.’”
According to HPISD Police Chief Mark Rowden, there have been no recent incidents reported near school facilities. District officials add that, while the violations may not be happening within their jurisdiction, they are sensitive to the issue and encourage drivers to obey the rules of the road.
Murzin describes Jack as a “lively, social, lovable kid.” While Jack’s mental capacity is roughly the equivalent of a 1-year-old, he loves being around other children. Jack is a regular at Scots sporting events, where he thrives off the energy of the crowd. He’s a manager on the basketball team, and loves it when his teammates rub him on the head. Jack celebrated with everyone else in Arlington last month when the football team won the state championship.
“We try to keep him involved and doing as much as he can,” Murzin said.
A November bus crash in Chattanooga that killed six children really affected Murzin. While those circumstances were entirely different, it made him ponder how one misstep could affect so many lives.
“As adults we’re OK with calling out our kids for their wrongdoings, but when we get called out, we get very defensive about it,” Murzin said. “My goal is education and awareness, but the bottom line is to avoid a tragic accident.”