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November 05, 2013  |   Comments (5)   |   Post a comment

School bus fights: how drivers can intervene

Intervention doesn’t have to mean using physical force. Calling dispatch for help, stopping and securing the bus, and giving orders to the students are key steps in responding. 

by Jesus Villahermosa Jr.


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Jesus M. Villahermosa Jr. is president of Crisis Reality Training Inc. He has been a deputy sheriff with the Pierce County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Department since 1981.
<p>Jesus M. Villahermosa Jr. is president of Crisis Reality Training Inc. He has been a deputy sheriff with the Pierce County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Department since 1981.</p>
Driver not charged
I can understand why bus drivers in America today feel like it is a no-win situation either way, but take heart in knowing that the final decision by prosecutors reviewing Mr. Moody’s actions was to not file charges of child neglect against him.

Mr. Moody did take action and intervened to help as much as he could have given the limitations of his age, experience and training. I commend Pinellas County Schools for supporting their driver and for having a written policy that actually instructs their bus drivers to do exactly what Mr. Moody did. Take action to seek help, protect the other students on the bus, but don’t physically intervene in the fight.

We need to educate the public by making this incident with Mr. Moody more personal to them. Would the public have been just as enraged if the 64-year-old driver had been their mother or father? Would the prosecutor expect his older father or mother to engage these extremely violent youths that were perpetrating this act of violence? Of course not!

When you speak to someone about this incident, try to get them to empathize with you about the many challenges you face and the fact that almost every violent incident on your bus will probably involve someone younger, faster and stronger than you who is not required to act within a code of ethics or professionalism. When we can start doing that, I believe that the public, and the media, will be more empathetic to the risks that bus drivers are exposed to every day in this country.

Train for reality
It is time that bus drivers started to receive more reality-based training to prepare them for situations exactly like this and the Alabama hostage situation. We as a society are seeing acts of violence being carried out against schools, universities and bus drivers that we would have never fathomed 20 years ago.

Our “reality awakening” is occurring every day in this country, and if the public really wants for us to protect their children as best we can, we need to change the training for our education staff across America.

God bless our school bus drivers for serving in one of the most dangerous jobs in the field of education and for having the best statistics in the country for all modes of transportation. You should be proud of what you do and how you are doing it. Thank you for choosing to be a school bus driver.

Drive safely, stay aware and always protect yourselves and your students as best you can.    

Jesus M. Villahermosa Jr. is president of Crisis Reality Training Inc. He has been a deputy sheriff with the Pierce County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Department since 1981. In his consulting business, he has primarily focused on school-related and workplace violence. He has spoken to thousands of pupil transporters around the country on issues related to use of force, breaking up fights and responding to crises on the bus.

This article may not be reprinted without permission of the author. E-mail him at jesus@crisisrealitytraining.com or go to Crisisrealitytraining.com.

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Read more about: student violence

"... the training bus drivers receive is definitely not “reality based” for crisis response situations," is one of many accurate statements in this must read article. Villahermosa is of the very few state funded presenters, of over 20-years attending state training in my state, that seemed to have an actual awareness of the school bus environment. "Practice does not make perfect ... perfect practice makes perfect," is a knowledge among law enforcement that seems never to have been actualized at most school bus driver training, most especially in the area of student management. Villahermosa's training is beyond our industry's capabilities, except where school bus drivers have overcome their fear of termination in the event any parent or school administrator complains. The bus driver's actions can be perfect, can right for the situation, can be lawful, and that perfect school bus driver can still be terminated by management and/or the school board. Villahermosa's training is astonishingly real, any school bus driver applying his training probably ought not be working for a hostile employer. The sad reality is that it takes only a few complaints from the hostile for some management styles to water-down Villahermosa's precision training to the typical ineffective training that school boards cater. One reality "DO," is to first find an employer that actually and effectively helps keep both children and the bus driver safe. Helps insure that Villahermosa's training has the greatest impact when helping keep kids safe, and without the bus driver used as a scapegoat when hostile complain.

jkraemer    |    Nov 12, 2013 12:06 PM

I am the coordinator of drivres training and certification for the School District of Philadelphia. We here in Pennsylvania follow pub 117 which is School Bus Driver's Mamual and it said we are not allow to touch the student. So the quetion is what do you when a fight happen on your bus?

craig poles    |    Nov 12, 2013 06:27 AM

Excellent, excellent article. My congratulations to Mr. Villahermosa. It is a well thought out and well written article. This is exactly what I teach my employees and my district endorses. Pull over to the side of the road in a safe location, contact dispatch – identify your location and request police and, if necessary, fire rescue, tell the students to stop fighting and let them know that there will be referrals/consequwnces if they don't stop now, make sure the other students are safe and keep yourself safe. Keeping yourself safe is the number one priority - if you are hurt, you cannot help anybody else.

Randy Mazie    |    Nov 07, 2013 11:38 AM

This article warrants attention. Good details. Good information to help ask questions. Thank you!

Anonymous    |    Nov 06, 2013 10:23 AM

Did I over think the point of this article? I was looking for do's and don'ts!

Terry    |    Nov 06, 2013 08:13 AM

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