Teenagers from one area of Whangarei are being forced to find their own way to school after some pupils "systematically destroyed" the bus.
Whangarei Bus Company says students last week deliberately broke and cut seats, removed an engine cover and threw stones in, and burnt headrests with a cigarette lighter.
The company no longer wants to collect students from the Smeaton's Dr. area, on the southern outskirts of Whangarei, as it believes that's where the culprits come from.
Smeaton's Dr. parents learned on Thursday that their children would have to find their own way to school - effective immediately.
While the person responsible for vandalising the bus has not been caught, the Education Ministry says the company is within its rights to cancel the service.
But furious Smeaton's Dr. parents say they haven't been given a fair go, they'll struggle to afford public bus fares and they are being discriminated against.
The Ministry of Education provides assistance to pupils living more than 4.8km from the nearest school unless, as is the case with Smeaton's Dr. residents, they are within 2.4km of recognised public transport.
Students from several Whangarei high schools catch that bus.
A Whangarei Boys' High School newsletter sent home on Thursday outlined the damage.
The school supported the bus company's request not to collect Smeaton's Dr. students until the culprits were found.
"This is obviously not an ideal solution as many innocent students are also being inconvenienced."
The newsletter also said from next year the service would no longer stop at nearby Blue Goose.
Students would have to catch a bus from Otaika shops or Murdoch Cres for $1 each way.
That's small change compared with the $16,000 Whangarei Bus Company must spend on new seats for the bus after the old ones were covered in graffiti.
Manager Gavin Roberts said he was "sick and tired" of secondary pupils "systematically destroying the bus".
Yesterday some pupils who had not heard of the change were allowed on the bus in the morning, but were told to "find their own way home" from school, he said.
Area resident Tami-Jo McQueen-Foster faces a $30-a-week bill to get her three secondary-age children to school.
She was "disgusted" and "frustrated" by the way children from the area were being treated, particularly because she and other parents were not aware of the vandalism problem until the newsletter arrived.
Parents had no chance to address the problem before the service was cut.
"We can understand where the bus company is coming from, but we have had no chance here."
It was not fair that all children in the area were being punished for the vandalism of a few. Truancy would probably increase as a result of the ban, she said.
Fellow suburban resident Kim Anderson said the Boys' High newsletter was the first she had heard of the vandalism.
"I rang the school and said, `I'm very, very angry'. I just think it's discrimination."
Ms Anderson helped organise a Smeaton's community barbecue on Sunday as part of a push to help the community grow stronger; news of the school bus cancellation was a blow to such efforts.
But Education Ministry Northland manager Chris Eve said the bus company was entitled to refuse to carry anybody it considered dangerous.
"If a student is within 2.4km of a recognised public transport service ... they can be expected to use that."
Whangarei Boys' High School headmaster Al Kirk said he was "sympathetic" with parents, but Smeaton's Dr. had not been singled out.
"It doesn't matter what the area of town is at all. The point is vandalism is occurring and kids are getting away with it."
Barring them from the bus, as had happened in the past for individuals for a term at a time, was a simple way of dealing with the serious problem.
Mr Kirk said some people had helped identify the likely vandals, and it appeared they were not Boys' High pupils.
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