In the past two weeks, three bus drivers nationwide have been recognized for their heroic actions and the impact they made on the lives of the students they transport.
Northwick, New York
On April 26, a school bus driver for Norwich City Schools pulled a student back from exiting the school bus after a car illegally passed the bus on the right-hand side when the stop-arm was out and the red lights were flashing.
The school bus driver, Samantha Call, has been working for the district for 6 years and used her training instinctively when a car almost hit a student she transports.
“She has really done an outstanding job, if you view that video, she is doing four things simultaneously there to protect that student from being severely injured, or perhaps killed,” Transportation Supervisor William Loomis said.
“As a transportation supervisor, it makes me angry that people can be so careless to drive by a bus with [its] red-lights and stop arm out and do it on the right side,” Loomis said.
Loomis added he hopes the governor signs the stop-arm camera bill into effect, which would provide funding for license plate cameras on both sides of the buses.
This school bus did have a camera on the left side of the bus. Where the stop arm is located, however, the motorist passed the school bus on the right. Therefore, the camera on the bus had no impact in this situation.
New York has mandated training every year for bus drivers, as well as three refresher courses throughout the year. The topic changes every year; this year the topic will focus on loading and unloading general education students, as well as students with special needs.
“Reminders of being very aware when coming to a stop, looking in mirrors and making sure that traffic stopped before you opened the door, telling students to look left and right before they exit off the bus. It’s just reinforcing all of that on a continuous basis,” Loomis said. “In hopes that when they are confronted by something like that, it is simply instinctual and she reacted as she did.”
Francis Kuznia, bus driver for Warren-Alvarado-Oslo School District, was lauded as a hero for saving students after a near-miss crash involving a semi-tractor trailer on May 3.
With 24 students onboard, Kuznia was heading west on Polk County 67, spotted a semi-truck coming toward him, and then drove the bus into the ditch to avoid a crash. When the semi also drove into the ditch, Kuznia drove his bus back onto the road.
“We are lucky, he’s a hero,” Superintendent Lon Jorgensen said.
The driver of the semi-truck was reported to have had a medical emergency and was later pronounced dead. However, Kuznia’s 34 years on the road and over half a million miles helped prepare him for this situation.
“He did exactly what he should do—he kept the kids safe and by doing so, became a hero,” Jorgensen said. “He’s just a good kind soul.”
In Sesser, Illinois on May 4, a school bus driver for Durham School Services (contracted through Sesser-Valier High School), navigated her bus to safety after losing all bus functions.
Judy Scott drove over an overpass on Interstate-57 and lost all power in her bus: lights, brakes, power-steering and her engine. When that happened, she was driving 67 miles per hour downhill, with a curve to the right. She was able to coast her bus down the hill, and stayed on the paved portion of the shoulder. After getting the bus to a safe speed, she was able to grab the emergency brake and make the bus stop.
Scott was carrying 24 high school students from the Sesser-Valier High School Math Team and two coaches on Saturday evening, when she was returning from the state math contest at the University of Illinois.
“We never witnessed you drive the school bus Saturday evening, yet we believe your actions were nothing short of a miracle,” the Illinois State Police Trooper Tracy said in a Facebook Post. “…I’m so happy you knew just what to do in an emergency. I’m sure the parents of each and every student on that bus were happy to know you were the driver and that your safety measures and instincts kept them safe. As a parent of three small children that ride a bus almost every single day, X-K9-1 and I know that we would trust you completely to transport them. They are precious cargo. Just like every single student on that bus Saturday afternoon. You are a true angel for them, and your actions saved their lives. All of them. I can’t thank you enough. Well done Judy, well done.”
Scott made sure all students were safe following the incident, and prepared them for a rear-end collision while waiting for assistance on the side of the road. She started putting out the emergency flares.
While Scott was waiting on the side of the road with her school bus full of children, a school district nearby was able to round-up a driver on a Saturday night to pick up the students and drive them to safety, while the district waited for its own replacement bus.
“She is one of the most experienced drivers in the Durham System,” District 196 Superintendent Jason Henry said.
The training Scott received is from Durham School Services. Henry said every year Durham driver receives driver safety training, bus evacuation training and student behavior training onsite with all of their bus drivers.
Scott was also a bus driver trainer during her career. Scott started with the district as a district employee bus driver. But after the district chose to contract out its transportation, Scott went with the transportation company to work with them. She worked up the ranks, eventually retiring from a management role.
Post-retirement, Scott returned to working as a bus driver for Durham. She requested to work at Sesser-Valier School district, and has been associated with the district now for 43 years.
The training and quick thinking of these bus drivers saved their students from what could have been bad outcomes.