As told to Seth Putnam
Executive Director, National
Association for Pupil Transportation
When I came to work this morning, I wasn’t expecting to hear that a disgruntled man walked onto a school bus in Alabama, shot the driver and kidnapped a six-year-old. It’s too early to say what specifically needs to change (and there’s never any one answer). We spend a lot of time encouraging driver situation awareness and training proper responses to what drivers may encounter. The greatest successes we have in this industry are our standardization and our data collection, and for the past 18 months we’ve been examining every nut and bolt of our process. We explain our mission by using the acronym CLEAR: communication, leadership, education, advocacy and research. It’s about training people, then leading them. As a result, we have some of the best-trained drivers in any commercial sector, and each year they’re using more and more equipment that’s state-of-the-art. The course of recent national events has underscored how precious and fragile young lives are. Safety and security have always been our top priorities, and they always will be.
School Transportation Association
The violence we’ve been seeing around our students is wholly unacceptable. Schools are a soft target. That’s a massive concern to all of us, and for the past several years we’ve been saying school and school bus security need more attention. A lot of our focus has been on education and training—things like asking everyone from the mechanics to the drivers to keep their eyes open and notice changes from day to day. But we also have to look at potentially adding features to our buses like thicker glass, since there have been higher instances of vehicles taking bullets. There are also some exciting technological ideas we’ve been employing, like the use of cameras to help see how bullying or other violent incidents have started so they can be prevented in the future. It’s also getting to the point where we might be able to offer live streaming from the vehicle so that if there’s an issue, the driver can push a panic button that lets the dispatcher or local law enforcement see exactly what’s going on. We have to be vigilant in order to change our culture.