It was nearly one year ago that school bus driver Chuck Poland was shot and killed aboard his Alabama school bus as 21 students watched in horror.
The crime, as it has been widely reported, was perpetrated by a "madman" who was convinced the federal government was fixing greyhound races at the local dog track. In October, another type of madman, one on meth, hijacked an Arkansas school bus at knife point because he thought the boogeymen were chasing him.
These cases are a far cry from terrorism as we have come to know it, but terrorist acts — or violent crime designed to terrorize a group of people — did occur. Though such incidents may be few and far between, we now realize that yellow school bus drivers and passengers can find themselves in the middle of an attack.
The Transportation Security Administration is targeting exactly these types of attacks with a regional "full-scale" security exercise in Tallahassee, Fla., on Jan. 22 that will train bus operators on how to prepare for an incident aboard the bus. This particular event focuses on motorcoaches and will include "several fully operational security demonstrations, exercises, and drills," reports Bus & Motocoach News, a publication of the United Motocoach Association.
Just this week, school bus drivers from Storey County, Douglas County and Churchill County received "active shooter" training.
As the latest severe winter storm hit the Northeast U.S., the Federal Transit Administration announced another $3 billion "to strengthen the resiliency of public transportation agencies that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012." FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff said the funds will reinforce transportation infrastructure that was damaged in the storm "so taxpayers won't have to pay to restore the same transit services a second or third time." Strange, but we haven't heard of any school bus operators receiving funds to replace the hundreds of school buses, if not more, damaged by Sandy, along with infractrstructure. Some have opined that the loss of some 400 school buses in the storm didn't help the long-term health of now-bankrupt contractor Atlantic Express.
The Pharos-Tribune featured a family in Fulton County, Ind., with several generations who have been driving school buses for more than a century. Elmer Etchyson began driving a horse-drawn "school hack" around 1910, and nearly four decades later, the Indianapolis Star reported Etchyson's school bus safety record, as "he had to use his accident insurance only once for an X-ray for a girl who bruised her back after falling down the bus steps."
Three generations of Etchysons have since driven school buses for Caston School Corporation, a string that the Pharos-Tribune's Mitchell Kirk reported will likley end with current bus driver Jeanne Etchyson, 73.
The entire family at School Transportation News wishes you and yours a Happy New Year! Here's to an outstanding and safe 2014.