A TSD Virtual session on Tuesday shared the importance of bus contractors and school districts communicating and cooperating to fulfill the responsibilities of safe transportation of students, especially those with disabilities.
Fred Doelker, director of safety for contractor Dean Transportation in Michigan, joined Debbie Rike, transportation director for Shelby County Schools located east of Memphis, Tennessee, discussed the crucial need for contractors and school districts to agree on procedures and policies before entering a contract. Doelker recommended going over possible incidents and the appropriate responses so that drivers are educated before they begin transporting the students.
Doelker emphasized that this training should not be generic but specific to the students being transported so that the best approach possible is used for each individual child.
Rike said that she makes weekly visits to the bus contractor office and builds a relationship with not only management but with the drivers themselves while keeping open communication about safe transportation strategies. Rike and Doelker agreed that districts should request digital daily or weekly reports, as well as the school bus camera footage to ensure that procedures are properly being carried out on every bus ride.
Doelker advised that it is critical that drivers are trained to carry out safety procedures as part of their daily bus routes. He listed several potential situations that could occur while transporting students, such as a child refusing to enter or exit a bus, or a student becoming aggressive during a bus ride, and recommended that the training to address these situations be conducted on the bus itself.
Conducting the training on the bus itself would help drivers be better prepared than a conventional conference room session, he added. Doelker also emphasized that difficult behavior should be referred to not as “annoying” but instead, should be approached more empathetically.
Both Rike and Doelker said that the responsibilities of safe student transportation should not be placed solely on the school district or the contractor. But rather it should be a dialogue between the two to find effective strategies that can be inserted into special needs students’ individual education programs and tools to equip drivers to safely transport students.