The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services recently issued a position paper that focuses on the importance of driver training in ensuring the safe transportation of children to and from school and school-related activities. “Drivers are responsible not only for the discipline of the children on the bus, but also any medical or other emergencies that may arise during the trip to and from school or school-related activity,” it says. The paper also includes an important message about drivers of special-needs students. “Many school bus drivers must attend to the unique requirements of students with special needs, which frequently requires additional special training and dedication.” Once again, we’re made aware of the need for additional school bus driver training, particularly for drivers of special-needs students. There are numerous training programs available in the industry, but there are few that offer certification and none that address the many skills and requirements of a special-needs driver.
Starting a local program
Because so few national or state certification programs are available, some local school districts have created their own. The transportation department at Lafayette (Ind.) School Corporation has developed a certification program to validate a driver’s understanding of how to transport children who use wheeled mobility devices. The six-hour program is designed to educate drivers in the operation and use of the special equipment required to transport students using these devices. The program consists of three hours in a classroom and three hours of hands-on training on the bus. Successful performance in all course activities leads to certification. The objective is to give drivers a means to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise in all aspects of transporting students who use wheeled mobility devices. To qualify for certification, the driver or bus attendant must demonstrate an understanding of local, state and federal laws as well as mandates and guidelines that apply to wheelchair use as mobile seating on a school bus. Both in the classroom and on the bus, the curriculum for driver certification includes learning proper procedures for the following:
Cheryl Wolf is special-needs transportation coordinator for Lafayette School Corporation in Indiana.