Sometimes a school transportation director or manager who has been to one or more of my presentations pays me the ultimate compliment: "You've made a difference for kids." What more could I ask for? Well, the "more" I seek is a sense that the same problems don't constantly recur.
I'm a story teller, and the stories I tell in my presentations are the situations I read about in lawsuits. They can make for heart breaking reading, tragic tales, but serve as excellent training tools. And so, when I put my hard-core lawyer's suit of armor on, and steel myself to the reality that these stories are about real kids who have, often, suffered real pain, I can actually find some perverse satisfaction in coming across a new story.
More often, though, I'm frustrated. And frankly, going through three or four piles of cases and news stories this week, I was struck again, as I've been struck before, by the "repeat performances."
A too-common and recurrent theme is the child who's missing on the bus. A tragi-comedy of errors follows: maybe the child got on the wrong bus, the parent is not notified in a timely fashion, no one's quite sure where the child is, and it turns out the child is at home – but, it seems, no one knew that. Then there's the driver who orders a student off the bus who may have misbehaved or become ineligible to ride because of new policy or loss of privileges. I'm so tired of reading about discipline by duct-tape – you'd think that drivers all carry a roll of the stuff just in case they have a young mouth that needs closing. And there are too many YouTube videos of out-of-control buses on which drivers fail to stop a vicious attack, or even radio for help when a student informs him that there's about to be a fight. And don't even get me started on bullying and harassment.
Of necessity, many of you are integrating "active shooter" instruction into your training curriculum, an important focus on proper use of restraint. Just a couple of years ago, the potential presence of predators – real and anticipate-at the bus stop was the topic de jour. I get that these are tremendously important issues. But when will we make the "old" ones go away?
I once did a presentation at the CASTO (California Association of School Transportation Officials) conference called "Just When You've Heard It All." If I were retitling that for the present, I think I'd call it "Just When You've Heard it All, You'll Hear It Again." Does anyone have any ideas?
Peggy Burns is the former in-house counsel for Adams 12 Five Star Schools in Thornton, Colo., and currently owns and operates Education Compliance Group, Inc., a legal consultancy specializing in education and transportation issues. She is also a frequent speaker at national and state conferences and is the editor of the publication Legal Routes that covers pupil transportation law and compliance. She also returns to the STN EXPO in Reno, Nev., this month as a presenter and moderator.