Here's a look at items and news of interest to student transporters for the week of Sept. 2.
Labor Day has come and gone with most school districts nationwide back in session, or soon to be. In anticipation of the upcoming 9/11 remembrance, the Transportation Security Administration issued a reminder for all U.S. citizens and especially school bus drivers to remain "vigilant and mindful of the importance of terrorist pre-operational activities" in order to help law enforcement to identify, deter or disrupt attacks.
Meawhile, Education Week reported that the 2013 National Report Card on Protecting Children in Disasters found that 28 states and the District of Columbia fail to meet minimum standards set by the National Commission on Children and Disaster in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Seventeen states lack a child-care evacuation plan requirement, and 16 don't require providers to have a family-reunification plan. Six states and the District of Columbia were found to fall short of the K-12 school multi-hazard plan standard—one that the report qualified as "extremely basic."
The report judged states' school preparedness based on four minimum standards:
- A plan for evacuating children in child care;
- A plan for reuniting families after a disaster;
- A plan for children with disabilities and those with access and functional needs;
- And a plan for multiple types of hazards for K-12 schools.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan may want to use a back-to-school event in Tucson next week as a chance to ask bus drivers and transportation personnel what they think about his plan for later school start times. Duncan turned to Twitter earlier this week to post:
"Common sense to improve student achievement that too few have implemented: let teens sleep more, start school later."
Studies show, reported EdWeek, that teens benefit from more sleep. Some districts, we've heard, are already going this route. But of course changing and coordinating bell times could have ramifications for transportation. Maybe most bus drivers wouldn't care one way or another, as they need to be up early anyway to get the bus inspected and ready for the day. Still, it's a conversation starter.
New York is one state looking at increasing the safety of its school bus drivers by potentially adding ignition interlocks tied to breathalyers that disable buses from being operated while under the influence. Several high-profile cases of drunk school bus drivers have been reported there over the past couple of years, prompting three bills to be introduced. The local student transportation associations are opposed, testifying in May that industry safeguards against drunk bus drivers are already in place. They are also concerned about cost, operation and reliability of the equipment.
That has not stopped potential school bus vendors from arguing that more must be done. One of those companies, Sober Steering, is exhibiting next month at the NAPT Summit in Grand Rapids, Mich. Live demos will show how biosensors installed in the steering wheel of a vehicle, the company says, can detect if a driver has been drinking simply through the touch of a hand on the wheel. If a driver has been drinking, dispatch is immediately notified and the school bus is immobilized prior to use.
A company representative told us several pilot programs are underway.
A judge in Ohio did it again. Reminiscent of a Cleveland woman who was convicted last year of illegally passing a school bus — on the right side of the road — a man was sentenced to hold a sign apologizing for breaking the law.
While Richard Dameron escaped calling himself an idiot, as was the case with illegal passer Shena Hardin, he had to stand outside a local police station holding a sign that apologized for calling 9-1-1 and threatening officers that he would kill them. Dameron admitted he was drunk at the time.
Lesson? Break the law in Ohio and prepare for public humiliation.
From the road rage meets workplace violence department: The Tulsa County District Attorney's Office in Oklahoma is reportedly reviewing an incident that occurred on a school bus between a bus driver and a school principal. The Tulsa World writes that the driver pushed the principal down the school bus steps after the principal attempted to evacuate students off the bus because of concerns about the driver's behavior.
"The principal was concerned that the behavior of the bus driver did not seem to be appropriate," said Tulsa Public Schools Campus Police Chief Gary Rudick. "He felt like the bus driver was not performing his duties properly, so he felt it was necessary to evacuate the bus."
So the driver "took exception" and, though wanting to first call his supervisor, pushed the principal back and out the door.
At that point, the students on board did evacuate the bus — through the rear emergency exit with help of teachers outside - and another bus came to take the kids home.