An Atlanta-based organizational consulting and coaching firm has partnered with a Tennessee school district to develop an understanding of judgment skills held by potential school bus drivers in response to November’s Chattanooga crash that killed six children.
In the wake of last year’s fatal school bus crash, the Dash Group created a private-public partnership with Cleveland City Schools to use grant funds to give the online Judgment Index Safety and Risk Assessment to 100 driver applicants. It was implemented on Feb. 1.
“We use the Judgment Index routinely,” said Catherine Hickem, founder and CEO of the Dash Group. “We know how powerful it is for employers, as well as employees and job applicants, to focus on this critical area that affects human behavior.”
Soon after the Chattanooga crash on Nov. 21, Hickem said the Dash Group identified the benefit that could be derived by employing the index with drivers and applicants. The online assessment tool gauges personal value systems for making decisions at work and home. For more than 40 years, the index has provided critical insight into behaviors during varied situations, including those for specific occupations like safety and risk management.
The index meets the standards set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for employment assessments. The company that administers the test is headquartered in Chattanooga.
“Accidents happen, but most can be prevented with an intentional focus on the people driving the buses,” she said, adding that, in the short-term, “We hope to raise awareness of a simple and inexpensive way for school districts to gain insight into the judgment faculties of existing and potential school bus drivers.”
A nationwide driver shortage has exacerbated the number of school bus drivers in certain states, including Tennessee. School districts are desperate for more drivers but also must ensure applicants meet minimum health and safety requirements.
The Dash Group said that Cleveland City Schools already has a stringent screening of applicants in place, but by “adding implementation of this assessment, along with the measures already in place, has the potential of positioning the Cleveland City Schools district as a model for others nationwide,” Hickem said.
Currently, Cleveland City Schools staffs 34 bus drivers who transport 2,448 general education students and 80 special services students each day. The districts are made up of nine schools with approximately 5,400 students enrolled.
Before obtaining an interview, aspiring bus drivers must pass three background checks with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Division of Children’s Services and Abuse Registry. The grant will add the Judgement Index as the next step in the process.
The grant leads the way for a proposed bus driver safety initiative and national qualification protocol from The Dash Group. The proposal recommends a combination of background checks, Judgment Index assessment, vehicle training, a GPS safety tracking system on board each bus, annual refresher training courses and legislation at the state and/or federal level that sets an age limit for drivers.
“Our hope is that this type of assessment will eventually become a standard best practice, not only in school districts nationwide, but in all industries where individuals are personally responsible for the safety of the lives of others,” Hickem said.