Watch that child

August 6, 2013

Although the school start is more than a month away, it’s never too early to highlight a group of special people that literally make the wheels turn in Scotland County and across the country – our school bus drivers.

What causes me to pay homage to these special people is the fact that I know they care about what they do because I have worked with them, and getting the job done with 100 percent accuracy is on their minds with each route from dusk until dawn.

A potential blunt force blow to a goal of 100% accuracy is dealing with school bus discipline when it rears its ugly head. Bus incidents can happen anywhere, but the most recent case that has garnered national attention is Pinellas County, Florida.

Some media outlets herald Mr. John Moody, as irresponsible for failing to physically intervene in a July 9th bus fight in which three 15 year-olds, who have since been charged with aggravated assault, can be seen on video brutally attacking a 13 year-old. As they pummeled him with a gauntlet of fists and kicks, Mr. Moody can clearly be heard calling for dispatch for help at least twice. He’s even heard pleading with other bus occupants with, “Somebody, please help him.”

I prefer to regard Mr. Moody as having acted in accordance with the Pinellas County, FL, transportation guidelines.

Section 9.02 of the Pinellas County School Bus Driver Handbook reads: “D. Drivers will, if at all possible, stop the bus if the behavior problem is a serious one. Change the students’ seats when possible to de-escalate the situation. Drivers will immediately contact the dispatch office for their assigned area via two-way radio and provide them with details of the situation. If there is a physical confrontation between two or more students, drivers may take tall reasonable measures necessary to separate the students involved in the confrontation to preserve safety and prevent injury.”

Phrases like “when possible” and “reasonable measures” are nebulous, and given the health, age, and state of mind of the driver, may prove helpful in this litigious world in which we live. Regardless of how saddened I become when I think of someone’s child being attacked by derelict deviants, Mr. Moody, who is 64 years old and who has since retired, did do what was required of him when he immediately reported the incident.

A driver cannot always pull over a bus anywhere, quell a situation, and then start back driving. There are several things to consider when an emergency situation occurs on a school bus: the safety of the driver, students, geographic locations such as overpasses and embankments, and the other drivers that share the road in fluid traffic.

Here in Scotland County, both my husband and I have dear friendships with scores of the county’s drivers. Professional in nature and often working other jobs in addition to this one, these stewards can be counted on day in and day out to promote safety at all times given the parameters surrounding them.

An excerpt from the Scotland County Board of Education Policy Manual, Section 6315, states:

“Safety is of paramount concern in providing student transportation services. Consistent with the board’s goals for student safety, all drivers involved in transporting students must comply with the following board requirements: …4. Use reasonable judgment in the operation of the buses; 5. Make reasonable efforts to maintain good order of the students being transported…”

They follow the policy daily. Thanks to the Scotland County drivers for delivering precious cargo daily and for a daily pledge of maintaining safety and responsibility.