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Roundup: Tenn. Police Hop Aboard School Bus Ride-Alongs; BB Gun Fired at Bus

The Hamilton County Department of Education and Tennessee Highway Patrol announced a plan to ride and follow Woodmore Elementary School bus routes.

In addition, troopers will patrol other random routes in Hamilton County for the remainder of the school year.

“The safety and well-being of our students is always our number one priority, said Kirk Kelly, interim superintendent for the Hamilton County Department of Education.

THP officers will concentrate initially on the Woodmore route, with Chattanooga police officers and Hamilton County Sheriff’s Deputies riding or following other Hamilton County school bus routes as schedules and personnel allow.

Beginning in March, law enforcement will continue to either follow or ride Hamilton County school buses, including Woodmore routes, and will continue through the end of year.

There’s bad judgment and then there’s terrible judgment. For example: Parents in Charlotte, North Carolina, are in shock after learning of a student was shot in the face by a BB gun while on his Sugar Creek Charter School bus.

Police said the 11-year-old suspect fired a Red Ryder BB gun into the bus and that the BB went through the bus window, striking a student in the cheek.

“Kids are getting younger and younger that are having access to guns, which is just heartbreaking,” said Excolar Miller, who was at the school picking up her granddaughter.

Police said the boy, also 11, suffered “visible damage to his right cheek,” but that he refused treatment.

“That’s why I say parents got to know what their children are playing with,” Bruce Hayes said. “It will do damage just like a regular gun, it ain’t no different.”

The suspect has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

The Dash Group, an Atlanta-based organizational consulting and coaching firm, has created a private-public partnership with an area school district aimed at understanding the judgment skills of potential school bus drivers.

The initiative, created in the wake of the 2016 school bus crash that killed six children, grants funding to give the online Judgment Index Safety/Risk Assessment to 100 applicants.

“We have chosen this particular school district because they are showing they are already doing everything they can in terms of safety and risk but didn’t have a strong assessment protocol for hiring drivers,” said Catherine Hickem, founder and CEO of the Dash Group.

With an enrollment of approximately 5,400 students in nine schools, the partnership school district transports 2,448 general education students and 80 special services students each school day.

Upon applying, aspiring bus drivers must pass three background checks—Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Division of Children’s Services and Abuse Registry—even before obtaining an interview. The grant will add the Judgement Index as the next step in the process.

“We’re not just looking for people who want a job,” said Hal Taylor, director of operations for the district. “We want to know that they have a purpose, an intent. We want people who understand the responsibility and know that they are affecting someone’s life every day.”

A nationwide bus driver shortage is exacerbated in certain states, including Tennessee, where the level of funding allows for part-time drivers only. Drivers may, as a result, work at least a second job as was the case with the driver in the Chattanooga incident.

“The Dash Group felt compelled to initiate this grant because of our sadness and indignation at the useless loss of children’s lives in the Chattanooga bus accident,” Hickem said. “We believe that careless driving could be significantly reduced if school system leaders would put this assessment protocol in place to ensure their drivers have the capacity for good judgment.”

Stewarded today by the Chattanooga-based company Judgment Index, the safety and risk assessment tool is quick and easy to use and, at $25 per person, inexpensive to administer.

Pennsylvania parents voiced their concerns after several syringes were found near a school bus stop.

“Needles being thrown down over there where the kids are—wrong, very wrong,” said Tim Long, who lives in the bus stop’s vicinity.

The syringes were found near a curb at the intersection.

“My kids I think would know better (than) to pick anything up or mess with anything, but any kid might not,” said Rachel Conley, a parent whose children use the bus stop.

Neighbors said they saw someone clean them up before the needles fell into the wrong hands.

“It doesn’t need to be here,” Long said.

He then spoke directly to the supposed delinquents.

“How about smarten up?” he added. “Take your garbage business away from the children. I beg you, please, leave us alone.”

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