Tornado, hijacking show value of school bus driver safety training

Posted by on March 30, 2012

The response of school bus drivers to a tornado in Henryville, Indiana, and to a school bus hijacking in Henry County, Georgia, reinforce the importance of training school transportation staff on safety, security and crisis / emergency preparedness procedures.

On March 2nd in Indiana, school bus drivers for the West Clark Community Schools reacted quickly in seeking shelter consistent from an approaching tornado consistent with their procedures, according to Campus Safety Magazine story interviews with school administrators.

The school district’s procedures cited in the article included:

“The procedures for bus drivers include evacuating the bus and moving as far away from it as possible. Ideally, drivers should seek shelter in a building, but if that is not an option, they should go into a deep ditch. Drivers must also have an established evacuation plan for their route, and they must have drills with their passengers to ensure that they know the evacuation procedure. In the wake of this tornado, Scroggin said the district is planning to upgrade these procedures.”

In Henry County, Georgia, a 26-year-old man was charged with 20 felonies for an alleged March 28th hijacking of a school bus with 19 children and a driver on board. Police say the man followed his nephews and other children on board, claimed he had a gun and a bomb, and said the bus was not going anywhere. The driver was credited with remaining clam, staying in conect with the suspect and notifying police at the same time.

The suspect, whose mother said he was a paranoid schizophrenic and was off his medicine, was tkaen into custody without anyone being harmed.

School bus driver safety, security and preparedness training is typically minimal

Our experience has consistently shown that school leaders grossly under-train school transportation drivers, administrators and support staff. School transportation departments are not provided budgets to fund on-site training.

We often find school transportation administrators seeking “videos or DVDs” to give to drivers to self-train as their time permits. It is ironic, and pretty sad, to see school districts rely on brief and often questionable videos or DVDs as their primary source of transportation security and emergency preparedness training.

Would the same school administrators tell their teachers and administrators they only training they are worthy of receiving is to watch 15 to 30 minutes of videos or DVDs on brain research, improving test scores and related education topics? Of course, the answer is clearly “NO”!

In our in-person professional development workshops for school transportation staff, we have found many dedicated school bus drivers who are caring, have good common sense and are dedicated to their jobs and the children. These people have also typically been craving training and have been left starving for it for many years.

There are also many practical, cost-effective transportation security and emergency preparedness planning and training steps schools can take to improve school bus safety.

School transportation safety, security and preparedness requires the same commitment of reasonable time and resources as does the same training for teachers, administrators and other support staff. We often say that teachers would not be expected to teach with their backs turned to students all day, but yet we expect are school bus drivers to drive this way with often little-to-no meaningful training for security and crisis issues which may arise.

Have your school leaders made meaningful commitments to providing safety, security and preparedness training for their school bus drivers?

Ken Trump

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One thought on “Tornado, hijacking show value of school bus driver safety training

  1. Trey says:

    I can imagine safety training for school bus drivers is minimal but when you hear stories like this, it shows you how important it really can be. Thankfully nobody was harmed in this incident!

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