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April 01, 2005  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

How to Survive a Violent Encounter

The March shooting of school bus driver Joyce Gregory reminds us that the threat of violence should not be ignored. Techniques for prevention and de-escalation can save the lives of passengers and drivers.

by Michael P. Dallessandro


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On March 2, the nation’s pupil transportation community learned with shock and horror how real the threat of violence is on the school bus.

School bus driver Joyce Gregory was gunned down in Cumberland City, Tenn., allegedly by a 14-year-old passenger, while driving her morning route (for more on the slaying, see News Alert). Only days later, it was reported that a school bus driver in Danciger, Texas, was attacked and injured by an 18-year-old man, allegedly high on drugs, who attempted to hijack her school bus.

These incidents and other school-related acts of violence around our country and the world have left school personnel asking themselves the following questions: “Can this happen to me?” and, “what should I do to increase the chances of a positive outcome during a violent or potentially violent incident?”

Safety is illusory
Law enforcement sources and media outlets report that violent crime continues to decline. The federal Centers for Disease Control, however, estimates that one in five high school students nationwide carries some type of weapon either for protection or for aggression. A major labor union that represents school employees estimates that 100,000 students carry a gun to school every day, and approximately 160,000 students are absent from school every day due to fear of bodily harm or intimidation.

Many school employees may have developed a false sense of security. Some believe that school-related violence is limited to areas prone to drugs, gangs or poverty. This could not be further from the truth. School-related violence is not limited by racial or socio-economic boundaries. Simply because you do not work in the stereotypical “inner city” does not mean you are any safer than a school employee who does.

Often, the young people who commit school-related violence mirror the adults who commit acts of workplace violence. Many times, high-profile cases of workplace violence are committed by middle-class, white males who are angry or upset for a variety of issues. Perpetrators of violent acts at school often fit the same general profile.

With these basic facts understood, it is quite clear that any one of us can become involved in a violent situation. Each situation will be different. There will be factors such as drugs, alcohol or a direct personal connection that we may not be able to control. There are, however, some textbook procedures that experienced law enforcement personnel recommend that can increase your chances of survival.

In any situation, individuals who have done some type of planning are always more successful. This holds true in violent situations. The bottom line is that you should look at your work environment with a concerned eye. Like any good defensive driver, you should know your environment and plan your escape route before you need it. The same rule applies to surviving violence.

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