It’s important for parents to understand theschool district’s policy on bringing largebackpacks and other items on board schoolbuses, says Larry Riggsbee of the TennesseeAssociation of Pupil Transportation.
No food or drinks allowed
Due to the choking hazard that food and drinks can present, many operations do not allow these items to be consumed on the bus, and they have a policy that states as much. Nunes says that the cameras in Vail School District’s buses have helped to ensure that students are adhering to his operation’s policy.
Trejbal, on the other hand, has found it difficult to enforce her operation’s policy in spite of the cameras on many of her operation’s route buses, as students are adept at hiding behind the buses’ high seat backs while eating.
“Students who are observed breaking the rule sweep the bus for a few days, and a note is sent home to their parents,” she says. “If the problem continues, the principals take over with inhouse detention — that usually takes care of the problem.”
At Star and Strand Transportation, the operation’s no eating and drinking policy applies to students, bus drivers and monitors. Thorner says buses are checked while drivers are performing their pre-trip inspections to make sure there aren’t food or beverages inside.
Bus aisle and exits should be kept clear
Another essential component to increasing safety on board the school bus, officials say, is keeping the aisle and exits clear.
At Vail and Freeman school districts, students must keep their backpacks on their lap or in between their legs on the floor in front of them.
At Star and Strand Transportation, backpacks and instruments must be secured in the bus before the drivers begin transporting students. Thorner says there are usually empty seats on the buses, so items can be strapped in next to students.
Larry Riggsbee, executive director of the Tennessee Association of Pupil Transportation, is among the industry professionals who believe that large items on school buses can present a safety hazard (see “Oversized carry-ons create lurking danger on buses").
Riggsbee says that the first step to reducing this hazard lies with the district’s school board. Members must create clear rules about what is and is not allowed on the school bus. Those rules must then be distributed to those who play a role in the transportation of students to and from school and school-related events, including school bus drivers, parents, teachers, band directors, principals, coaches and athletic directors.
Moreover, Riggsbee says he feels that school bus drivers should be given the authority to enforce the school district’s policy regarding large items on the bus.
“Drivers shouldn’t have a ton of personal items, food or drinks on the bus,” he says. “If the driver does that, the students will do the same thing.” While Riggsbee led the transportation program at Sumner County (Tenn.) Schools, his policy was “if it’s not on the bus when I gave it to you, don’t put it on the bus.”