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Bus driver questions satellite radio service for children

John Gleason

Archdiocese of Denver

December 12, 2007

Daniel Kenny is concerned and wants people to know what he’s concerned about. Kenny is a member of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Littleton. He is also is a bus driver for the Littleton School District. It’s what’s happing on the bus that he wants people to be aware of.

“Two months ago, the drivers were told that the busses were being installed with a satellite radio service called Bus Radio,” Kenny said. “The kids are being forced to listen to music that may not be age-appropriate.”

Bus Radio offers kids a music alternative to what they hear on regular commercial radio. A description on the company’s Web site says the music programs are tailored to elementary, junior high and high school audiences. In addition to the music, students are encouraged to log onto the Bus Radio Web site where they can enter contests, rate songs, make requests and participate in polls. School districts that sign up with the service can share in ad revenues generated by it. That is one issue that bothers Kenny.

“Up until this story broke on KOA radio, we were told we couldn’t turn the volume down,” Kenny said. “Otherwise, the district couldn’t receive any revenue. They were also able to monitor how long the segments played.” Some songs contain explicit lyrics or suggestive themes, according to Kenny. Others deal in profanity, promiscuity, even suicide. School districts can sign up for Bus Radio without notifying parents. In a manner that can be described as Orwellian, the children have become a captive audience, forced to listen to music they may not want to hear or that their parents wouldn’t approve of.

The Archdiocese of Denver does not operate an overall bus system for Catholic schools and none of the busses operated by individual Catholic schools subscribes to Bus Radio. Still, Superintendent for Catholic Schools Richard Thompson said this should be of concern to all educators.

“I know we have many Catholic children who ride busses to public schools,” Thompson said. “This is an issue that warrants parental involvement and parental scrutiny. It’s an example of how parents need to be the primary educator of their children.”

Meantime, Kenny has tried repeatedly to obtain advance copies of playlists to see what Bus Radio will be airing and has met with little success. Bus Radio has stopped responding to his e-mails, he said. But he’s not giving up. Not when he feels that this service is detrimental to the kids.

“We’re talking about God’s children here,” he said. “Why should we support a company that degrades people nationwide? This needs to be answered by the school districts.”

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