Amish, NY school board resolve busing dispute

NY Amish BusDo you remember the controversy over busing Amish students in New York back in January?

By a 6-0 vote, the Marathon school board has elected to offer the Amish “special busing”, which will apparently do enough to alleviate Amish concerns.  To recap the Amish side:

The Old Order Amish community in the hill towns around Marathon had sought separate busing for their children on a schedule that fit their later school days. Amish parents said they didn’t want their children influenced by non-Amish culture, and they expressed concern that their children might be bullied over differences in their distinctive dress and simple way of life.

This issue raised a number of questions–including over special treatment of the Amish, road safety (some of the Amish students live in a heavy-traffic area), and money (extra busing costs more; Amish bring a positive economic impact the area).

Mixed opinions

There were a lot of good comments on the original post on this issue.  Here are a few that I thought hit some interesting points and captured the range of views:

Roberta wrote:

First, I agree that children absolutely should not be walking on the shoulder of the road up here in the winter. Someone had better come up with a compromise.

But there’s nothing that pulls a small town apart better than telling us that you don’t want your kids mixing with our kids.

Frequent Marathon visitor Tom noted:

In the summer of 2010 I was at a barn raising and spoke with many English folks who saw the Amish folks as a plus to their community. One English couple sold their farm to two Amish brothers which had been in the man’s family for 180 years.

At first I would think that this would be hard to do. None of his family wanted to continue to farm and the sale was the only way to see the land remain a farm. Many local folks enjoy seeing barns going up instead of falling down.

Barb shared:

The Amish do have the right to raise their children as they culturally wish — their desire to end schooling with 8th grade, and being allowed to do that, illustrates their freedom. What they don’t have the right to do is require people in “the world” to pay for their wishes — which is what they are requesting with their demand/desire for separate buses.

Yes, it is all about the children — ALL of the children, not just those who think they deserve special treatment. I do not wish my child to ride the school bus, so I join the line of other “worldly parents” who do not wish their children to ride the provided bus at school drop off/pick up each day. The Amish are free to behave in the same manner, providing their own alternate transportation that adheres to their Ordnung.

And Magdalena added:

I rode a public school bus for twelve years,and I would think the Amish parents are right to want to avoid having their own children shielded from the rough and tumble, unmonitored environment.

There is also the matter of the farm hours that Amish children keep, and that working with their parents is part of their education. It suggests that the new superintendent hasn’t much experience with farm families. Perhaps the Amish will have to hire a private bus company instead.

As for formal private busing, I haven’t read anything that suggests the option was considered (or, for that matter, availability and cost of such a service), other than sympathetic English providing rides this past school year.

In any case, private bus service won’t be needed.  Amish agreed to register their two private schools with the state Education Department, meaning more government funds, helping alleviate the cost issue.

Apparently they were comfortable taking this step, creating a formal tie of sorts to the State.   I think some Amish groups wouldn’t be, though the Marathon Amish are apparently a fairly conservative community otherwise.
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    1. Richard from Amish Stories

      I’m not that familiar with this case In New York, but I do see quite a bit of Amish children walking to and from school on the edge of some pretty busy roads. And I do find myself feeling a little nervous for those kids walking along side some pretty heavy traffic, so not all Amish children walk only on country roads like some folks my think. Richard

      1. Richard from Amish Stories

        Sorry for the typo.........wanted to say "may" instead of "my"

        so not all Amish children walk only on country roads like some folks (my) (wanted to say “may” instead of “my” . It must have been a little too early for me this morning folks, enjoy the day. Richard

    2. Alice Aber


      Had a minute so thought I would pop on. This is an interesting story. I am happy they came to a good arrangement. I see no difference in providing a seperate bus for the Amish than the seperate bus my shcool district, when I was growing up, provided for those who were developmentally disabled. Sometimes a little more expence is needed for the safety and well being of the children, no matter who they are.

      If people in this world were more willing to make accomodations for others, it just might be a better place to live for everyone.

      Blessings, Alice


      At THE ENGLISH SCHOOL I TAUGHT AT THEIR BUDGET FOR 60 students is $420,000. $7,000 per student. THAT IS A $406,000 DIFFERENCE EACH YEAR.

      1. Jean Junkin

        I agree, let the Amish have their beliefs and schooling they want for their kids. I had the pleasure of staying at an Amish home in Bird in Hand, PA. Never have I seen such well behaved children. These were little ones, 7 and under. Some of them sang for us at breakfast. Some only sang in German, which was fine. It was the thought that counts. A lot can be said for what an Amish 16 year old can learn by working side-by-side with their father and mother.

    4. Todd

      The local laws forced this, not the Amish

      “New York state law requires busing to be provided to private school students as well as those attending public schools.”

      This is not an example of the Amish forcing “The World” to pay for their cultural particularities. The local laws state that buses must be available… even for private schools. Thus, in the extreme example, if there were a private school that attended from midnight to 6am, according to this stupid law, buses have to be provided. (assuming there are not limits written into the law that I have not read)

      I am supportive of the concession simply in the name of being compliant with state law. Really there was no concession. The law was made. The Amish articulated compliance requirements. The state had no choice (though it may be grumpy about it) but to abide by it. Simple.

    5. Lee Ann

      The Amish deserve to have the buses get their children safely to school and back. I agree its not safe for the kids to be walking along side the road for many reasons.

      Public schools transport kids to charter schools and private schools, so the Amish have the right to have the bus service as well. As Richard and others stated the Amish do pay taxes and the school tax even though their children do not attend public schools.

      The Amish save alot of money for others, and do a great job of keeping farms going when English people are selling off farms and giving up the farm and country life. I for one applaud the Amish for continuing what they are doing, and getting the bus service for their children.

      I would like to see the Amish extend the schooling another year though in order to help the children do better with jobs. If they had a little more schooling with math and science it could benefit them as well as those needing to work with the english to support their families.

    6. Alice Mary

      Thoughtful compromise

      I agree with Alice Aber and Eli—I especially appreciate Alice’s comment,

      “If people in this world were more willing to make accomodations for others, it just might be a better place to live for everyone.”

      It goes both ways—English accommodating the Amish and vice-versa.

      The bottom line here is the safety of the school children.

      In my own area, our local Catholic school children ride buses with the local public school children. On days when the Catholic schools attend class, but the public school kids are “off”, thus no bus service, the Catholic parents must provide their own transportation. I also know of many public school parents who don’t want their kids riding the buses, so they drive their own kids—hopefully, for economy’s sake, (as well as being good neighbors) they carpool with others. Many (if not most) Amish, from what I’ve read and been told, pay English drivers to drive them to distant towns for various reasons—medical/dental appointments. I am sure this is an option they’d consider for their children if occasionally necessary.

      As Eli states, the Amish still pay for but don’t use government programs like Social Security, Medicare, etc., etc. They (like my parents, who put 3 daughters through 12 years of Catholic education while paying taxes for public schools) knowingly and willingly make choices that affect their pocketbooks, and accept the consequences because ultimately, it’s all “worth it” to them.

      We’re fortunate to live in a country where we have these choices as well as our freedom to protest, and possibly inspire change, when we feel it may be necessary.

      Alice Mary

    7. Tami

      Pros of life in a small rural town

      I don’t know if ppl on this site realize this, but the Amish were prepared to let this go. Some of their neighbors were encouraging them to fight for their rights, and were a bit frustrated that this is not their way. Because this is a small town where we know each other and we look out for our neighbors, it was more the community that fought for them. I am very proud of my little town for this. These ppl not only are helping our town financially, but also adding to the family friendliness that defines who we are. Our community has truly benefited from the Amish being here. They are a pretty conservative group, but they are some of the friendliest and most neighborly ppl you could ever hope to have as neighbors. Kudos to those who cared enough about our neighbors to continue to pursue what was right and fair.

    8. I’m shocked that during economic times like this that the school district would cave on this issue. In my experience school districts are not super willing to change their bus schedules for private school students.

      I’m also shocked at the audacity of the Amish group to even ask for these special privileges. It seems to me that this group is giving up a lot of their ‘separate and apart’ walk from the world in the deal. They are making a deal that could possibly give the Board of Education a lot of power over their schools. I hope they know what they are doing because I can see some very bad things coming from a situation like this. Does being registered mean that they must then comply with state education requirements?

      (It reminds me a bit of the story I heard about a town in Wisconsin or Iowa that wanted to require the Slow Moving Triangle on buggies. The town wasn’t able to enforce this and so, according to the story-teller, they then passed an ordinance requiring the horses to wear diapers to eliminate road apples.)

      I do understand the concern of the children walking along the road but there are plain children far and wide that have responsible parents who hire drivers to take them to school. They would never consider asking the state for a special bus ride when such a simple option much more in keeping with their faith is available.

      My husband and I send our children to a private school where busing is not provided. The biggest hassle is finding transportation that is not going to break our budget. Yes it would be much easier to call up the school districts and make it their problem, but we made it our problem when we opted out of the public school system. Sometimes convictions take sacrifice.

      1. Not a common arrangement

        As I wrote in response to Lance below I wonder what registration entails as well Rachel. As I think you hint at in your other comment it could very well be a short term gain but long term loss for this group of Amish. While it’s not unheard of, most Amish do not have such arrangements regarding busing.

    9. Amish ny school bus

      I feel Evert child deserves a safe environment to and from school. Aren’t enough children taken from walking along sidewalks, in public areas or not far from their homes? Safety is first and Amish children also deserve to be bused for their own safety, when going to school. We don’t need more Amber alerts or ambulances because a child was taken or injured walking to school.b

      1. Matt from CT

        >Aren’t enough children taken from walking along sidewalks,
        >in public areas or not far from their homes?

        That’s extremely rare.

        Children are statistically in much more grave danger every time their parents drive them to school then when they are of a stranger abducting them while they’re walking to or from school.

    10. Response to Tami

      I’m glad that your town looks out for each other but I do not know that this was in the Amish people’s best interest. It leaves a bad taste when in one town the Amish don’t want to comply with building codes and regulations, one reason being that they don’t sign contracts, and in another town they insist on having special busing privileges and register their schools with the BOE in order to do so. I’m pretty sure there is some paperwork involved with that registration that would equal a contract.

      I am worried about the Amish allowing others to do their ‘fighting’ or lobbying for them. I honestly do not think it will benefit them.

    11. Lance

      Uh no

      I am horrified that these Amish have ‘tied into the system’ with their schools and are receiving funds from the state. This will open those schools up to state control and regulation. The state could now dictate who can teach, what can be taught, they can silence Christian doctrine when it interferes with state mandates(read forced acceptance of homosexuality and silence of Christian beliefs regarding it, evolution and other heresies too), and the Amish may have to allow non-Amish into the school. I consider that a disaster for keeping the Amish way in that community.

      I am so glad that there is a Hillsdale College. They, and Grove City, PA are the only 2 universities in the USA that accept no gov’t money. This allows them to be the only controller of the school, its curriculum, who gets admitted, etc. Go sign up for the constitution series on their website and see how they have been greatly blessed by this separation from the state!

      I am great saddened by this compromise. Will it compromise all the other NY Amish schools too? Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

      1. Separate but Equal


      2. Lance for the record I have no idea what registration entails, and what are the implications. Even as just a nominal tie though I could see some Amish objecting. I’d guess it’s not much more than that, but that’s just a guess. Would be very bad for them if it did mean more than a formality as you speculate.

    12. Lance


      I was pointing out that they have probably compromised the school by tying it to the state. In time, I believe the state will forget the original ruling and will force the school into modernity. The state may use this one school as an example to be used against all the others in the state. It has happened before and would be history repeating itself.

      I did not say a thing against the school busing, pro or con. I don’t understand what you were trying to say about my comment.

      Please, do not use all caps, it is considered to be shouting on the internet, a very impolite thing to do.


        Du bisht ein CAPITAL AISEL.

        1. Well, obviously no one’s dictating behavior, but if it’s not too much trouble Eli, maybe switch the caps lock off.

          All caps is more difficult to read and yes, it is generally understood as the equivalent of online shouting. Just a common courtesy for readers.

        2. Sorry Eli, but the person using all caps is the CAPITAL AISEL.

    13. Elizabeth Snoke

      Yes on school busing

      If the Amish are paying taxes (?including school taxes for public schools), they should have the right to school bus service.

      Since 2008, I have “adopted” an Amish family, sending money to the mother on the first of each month. I found her through the “Showers” column of The Budget newspaper. Her husband deserted her and their 5 children in 2007, leaving the church and apparently divorcing her in court so he could marry an “English” woman.

      In January 2010 in their Pennsylvania town, the children walked home from school as they always did. The older girl and her older brother stopped to get the mail from their mailbox by the road. At that point a nutty driver passed a car ON THE RIGHT and hit both children. The girl died immediately; her brother had a broken leg and recovered o.k. It still might have happened, but how many such children are hit by motor vehicles as they walk home on the edge of the road?

    14. Tami

      I have no idea if my assumptions are right, but I was assuming that the public school is the one getting the funds to bus these kids, not the Amish school…not sure how that works but I do see your concern if it changes things for them. I believe this was just a way to make it ok with some tax payers to bus the kids. There are always a couple of those ppl who are sure they’re being taken advantage of in some way if whatever’s being done doesn’t help them personally. Never mind that the Amish pay school taxes anyway.
      I’m not sure how I feel about it leaving a bad taste if one group has to comply with something and another doesn’t…Some Amish groups don’t want to befriend any English at all and won’t have them helping out on their barn raisings for example, others do accept friendship and help..I don’t think it makes one group more “Amish” than the other, anymore than the fact that different groups have different rules for clothing. But some things are just indisputable, here for example there are regulations they have to follow for their outhouses, they didn’t always have to, but again, it doesn’t change their “Amish-ness”

    15. Ed

      Erik, thanks for the update. It sounds like we’re still not clear on all the details, but this was not simply a case of Amish parents not wanting their children to mix with non-Amish.

      As Todd pointed out, New York state law requires school districts to provide bussing, up to a certain distance, for private school children living in the distric, including those attending religious schools. Nothing new here, this has long been State policy.

      I also like Tami’s update. It’s heartening to learn both that the Amish were prepared to concede this issue, and that non-Amish neighbors are the ones who fought for Amish concerns.

      I’ll add that New York State has a number of legal-but-unusual school districts. For example, Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic Jewish district created entirely to serve the special-education needs of that community, whose “regular” students all attend private yeshivas.

      1. Thanks Ed, I really appreciate you and others able to share some local knowledge to provide more details and context on this NY issue. If there are any other updates I’ll be glad to hear about it.

    16. sarah

      My understanding is that while they registered their school with the state, it involved little more than giving the names and ages of the students attending school and where the schools are located. The public school is the one that will be receiving the state aid. The amish school will only be receiving bussing.