For some time, School Transportation News hears from school bus drivers and other transportation staff about the growing concerns regarding safety and security not only of students on the bus but concerns for their own livelihood. Following the recent murder of Alabama school bus driver Chuck Poland, we were contacted by Cary Monaco (left), a minister and school bus driver himself from Chandler, Okla.
He pointed out that school bus drivers need additional training on how to handle parents and other adults who try to enter the bus.
"We try to get parents and other adults to come to the driver's window to communicate. However, sometimes parents are right there in the doorway with the kids," Monaco told us. "It's a difficult situation, which drivers encounter on a consistent basis."
He relayed an event that occurred last year when a parent entered the school bus lto get involved in a student fight.
"(It was a) tough situation for that driver in a volatile situation. I don't know if a strict policy prohibiting adults from approaching a school bus door would have made a difference in the Alabama tragedy, but it may have," Monaco added. "Many would consider it quite a challenge to maintain control over 60 kids aged from four years old on up packed like sardines into a narrow room. However, if that's not challenging enough for you then add being required to manage the behaviors of those 60 youngsters by yourself with your back to them the entire time.
"Oh, and one more thing, you also must drive that narrow room packed with rambunctious children in all kinds of traffic and weather conditions while striving to keep order and safety."
Here is the article he submitted to us. Let us know if you agree.
So, are you ready to sign up to be a school bus driver?!
Nope, one doesn't have to worry about there being a line of folks vying for school bus driver openings. In fact, the number one comment I hear from people when they find out I'm a school bus driver is, "I could/would never do that."
The job of school bus driver doesn't hold an esteemed position in our society, but maybe it should. After all, school bus drivers are responsible for the safety of millions of our nation's precious children as they're transported to and from school. Speaking for school bus drivers everywhere, the worst fear we harbor is something tragic happening to children under our care. The haunting stress of realizing that one moment of distraction or inattention can bring horrific tragedy motivates us to constantly focus on safety first.
With the enormous challenges and responsibilities faced by school bus drivers, it seems that we would be appreciated. However, it's much more common for school bus drivers to receive complaints than commendations.
Rather than backing up the driver when he or she reports a child's wrong and dangerous behavior, it's commonplace for parents to go on the defensive instead. The distracting behaviors of the child which put everyone on the bus in danger are minimized or denied with the fault somehow landing squarely on the shoulders of the driver. This reaction by parents then serves to reinforce the child's thinking that he or she can misbehave on the bus and get away with it, further increasing their distracting and dangerous activities.
Perhaps it would be beneficial to contemplate for a few moments how utterly challenging it is to navigate a long narrow room filled with children through all sorts of traffic and weather while at the same time attempting to maintain orderly and safe behavior.
School bus drivers are not seeking special recognition; just the respect that common sense and decency should command.