Most experts and transportation directors agree that the school bus’s status is a “soft target” when they are on the road. But they also can be at risk in the bus yard.
Denny Coughlin, president of the School Bus Training Company and a counterterrorism expert who has taught classes and studied terrorist acts against children around the globe, said the bus yard is where school buses are most vulnerable. He noted that school districts could do a much better job protecting their buses when they are parked.
“As I look at security for school buses in America overall, on a scale of one to 100, we are about a five,” Coughlin said. “This includes terrorist activity or anybody tampering with a school bus. We worry about could someone plant a bomb on a school bus; absolutely they could. I know some bus yards that basically have a street running through them. Most (districts) don’t have locked facilities to secure their buses.”
Acts of vandalism and theft have prompted some school districts across the country to hire private security companies to watch over their buses at night.
“Vandalism is where it started for us too,” said Jennifer Simpson, transportation director in Missouri’s Wentzville School District. “But around the state, there have been a couple cases of buses being stolen over the course of the past year, and we don’t know where those buses went. Our yard is alarmed, and a private security company monitors the alarm. The district has its own security force that patrols throughout the district.”
Dan Swindall, president of Phoenix-based Blackstone Security Services, which provides bus yard security throughout the Southwest, said the use of private security to watch bus yards is gaining popularity among school districts.
“Besides preventing vandalism and theft, private security professionals are trained to look for situations that may make it easy for a terrorist to sabotage a school bus, or even plant explosives,” Swindall said. “This may not be foremost in their minds when hiring a security company, but it is an added benefit.”