�Of the 64 households (interviewed), seven had sought professional help for the psychological problems students developed from riding on a school bus each day,� said researcher Michael Fox in a study of Canadian children with long rides.
They have less time for family, homework and a social life, Fox said.
Students also told Fox they�ve seen drugs, violence and even sex during their bus rides. Parents also complained that their elementary children ride with high school seniors, exposing them to inappropriate behavior.
Elementary children ride with high school students in almost every rural West Virginia county.
Children with long rides are less likely to get involved in sports, band, and other extracurricular activities, several studies confirm. Students who don�t get involved often have lower grades and are more likely to drop out of school.
Students interviewed by the Gazette-Mail said that the long rides hurt their academic performance, but state and national educators have paid scant attention to the issue.
�This field has been taboo for 30 years because the issue was linked with racism and desegregation,� said Marty Strange, policy director for the Rural Schools and Community Trust, an advocacy group for rural schools.
West Virginia�s long bus rides aren�t related to desegregation orders.
The most recent comprehensive study on academic performance looked at 2,000 bused students in Oklahoma in 1973. They found that children on the bus over an hour scored lower than children with shorter rides.
Earlier research is mixed on whether busing hurts students academically. Two other studies from the early 1970s found no difference between bused students and non-bused students. Those studies were criticized for not taking into account the socio-economic background of the students, which the Oklahoma study did.
To contact staff writers Eric Eyre and Scott Finn, use e- mail or call 357-4323.