This past November, attendees of the 2016 NAPT Summit conference took part in a TSA security demonstration where local law enforcement exhibited the capabilities of their tactical units in terminating critical situations involving school buses.
Convening at a school campus outside of Kansas City, Missouri, area Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams displayed the assorted techniques used to breach and storm school buses to bring an end to crises that may arise in student transportation.
School Transportation News surveyed nearly 100 NAPT members who watched the active shooter drills to develop a snapshot of what they discovered from the presentations.
“My district needs to take safety a lot more seriously than we have been,” said Cindy Hix, a route manager for a Houston school district, who added that she “had no idea what would be involved if something were to happen on one of our buses.”
Several people pointed out that the “yellow bus” is an easy target and drivers and safety staff need to be trained on how to react to keep children safe and alleviate the danger.
“We need to be vigilant, looking for anything out of the ordinary,” said Mike Reinders, director of transportation for Winnebago CUSD 323. “I was surprised at how many districts are not up to speed.”
The demonstration presented various rapid-response actions to engage potential high-risk threats that could overtake a school bus.
The counterattacks involved using offensive maneuvers tactical vehicles, high-powered weaponry, flashbangs and bulletproof gear, everything synchronized to eradicate the threat swiftly and securely.
Reinders, whose district is in northern Illinois, added that Winnebago CUSD “will be looking to add more security to our lot as well as other things to attempt more safety.”
A number of attendees reported that they plan to incorporate a few of the measures covered in the demonstration by revising current plans, reaching out to security assets and police and adding specific training procedures.
Ginger Moorhead, a driver and trainer for the Lee’s Summit, where the security demonstration was located, reported that her transportation department “keeps our drivers up to date on all protocols.”
She added that “we work alongside our law enforcement and they help us in any way possible to keep our drivers and students safe.”
For many districts, though, implementation of these well-rounded security procedures is often hindered by cost.
Sandy Dillman, director of transportation for Apple Valley Unified School District in California, said she would like to incorporate similar training for drivers to fully grasp the seriousness of the issue.
Unfortunately, for the district located a few hours from Los Angeles, “Money is always going to be the stopper for it,” Dillman added.
Others responded that they feared incorporating these tactics into their protocols could receive some pushback from administration, be viewed as too aggressive by the public or scare off existing and would-be bus drivers who might perceive the job as too dangerous.
In addition, Hix conceded that she was “worried that our local school district (police department) will not be as cooperative as we would like them to be.”
Yet, overall, most responses were positive and a majority saw no problem either implementing these measures or pushing for changes. “Information is power,” said Rob Watson, transportation director for Branson R-4 School District in Missouri.