The 2022-2023 school year experienced more occurrences of gun violence within schools by the end of October than during the entire 2021-2022 school year. Much of this violence occurred on or around school buses. In fact, research indicates a steady increase in violent situations involving a school bus annually for the past four years. There was even a rise in bus violence during the height of COVID-19.
School violence is a broad term and ranges from tragic active shooter incidents to a simple push of a student. This makes exact statistics difficult to come by. However, since 2007, Gray Ram Tactical, LLC has been track-ing school bus violence according to various levels of severity. Two key takeaways are: The age of the attacker is getting younger (for example, the 6-year-old student shooting a teacher in Virginia last month) and the way a shooter gets to school with their weapon.
School active shooters are now more routinely taking the school bus. Historically, most active shooters got to school by walking, driving themselves, or being a passenger in a parent’s vehicle (the case with the Virginia student). A shift to the school bus began around 2018. It should be noted that not all violence involves firearms. The most common weapon used in school violence are fists and feet, followed by books, pens, pencils and other school supplies. Even in active shooter situations, the killer does not always use a gun. On the same day as the Sandy Hook tragedy, an elementary school was attacked by a man with a knife, resulting in more deaths and injuries than was produced by the rifle. That same week, across the country, a school shooter used a bow and arrows. The term “active shooter” truly means “active killer,” regardless of the weapon used.
When a student boards the bus with a weapon, it is imperative that the bus driver understands the Verbal & Non-Verbal Indicators of Violence, Concealed Weapon Identification Techniques, and Verbal & Non-Verbal De-Escalation Techniques to properly handle the situation. Should the driver not understand these concepts and not stop the attacker, not only will they deliver the killer to their innocent victims but also bolster that student’s confidence level. When the student’s confidence level has increased (by carrying their weapon undetected by the driver), it becomes exponentially more difficult for faculty and staff within the school to observe these indicators.
Editor’s Note—Newport News Public Schools officials reportedly were notified the 6-year-old student had a gun and but failed to contact police before last month’s shooting.
Every school bus driver should complete proper training in these subjects every year. Many states have enacted laws requiring schools to undergo active shooter training annually, yet many do not mandate transportation personnel’s attendance. This training vastly differs from active shooter training for teachers inside of buildings. School bus training for active shooters (and other types of violence) must be specific to the bus. Unfortunately, as seen in Uvalde, Texas, many drivers do not receive this type of life saving training. Gray Ram Tactical has provided these exact training programs since 2007.It should be noted that this increase in school bus violence is not exclusively a U.S. and Canadian phenomenon. Although pupil transportation varies from country to country, school bus violence has also increased throughout Europe, Africa and South America.
With the increased amount of violence around school buses, it is just as important that bus drivers know how to medically treat violence related wounds such as gun-shot and stab wounds. School bus first aid kits should have more than simply Band-Aids. As witnessed after the Uvalde shooting, school bus drivers might respond to the school to act as makeshift ambulances, or drivers may need to effectively treat wounds while EMS responds to the scene. School bus first aid kits should include tourniquets (of the proper size and style to treat younger children with smaller limbs), hemostatic gauze, and chest seals. Just as bus drivers need to know CPR, they also need to know how to use first-aid equipment.
Regardless of why the world is becoming more violent, bus drivers today must know how to prevent, mitigate and respond to acts of violence. Proper training must be taught on an ongoing basis. Properly trained drivers truly can save lives and just maybe bring the violence rate for buses down to safer levels.
Editor’s Note: As reprinted in the February 2023 issue of School Transportation News.
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