At the National Association for Pupil Transportation’s annual conference in Greensboro, N.C., Michael Dallessandro, transportation supervisor at Lake Shore Central Schools in Angola, N.Y., made a presentation titled “Mission Impossible: Creating a School Bus Safety Program for Middle School Students.” The goal of the presentation was to give transportation professionals guidelines, tips and resources for teaching safety lessons to the often troublesome middle school age group. SBF Plus discussed the program with Dallessandro.
SBF Plus: Can you briefly describe your presentation?
Dallessandro: Basically, it was designed to give drivers, trainers or administrators information needed to develop in-school, middle school- aged school bus safety programs. The programs would be held in classrooms or auditorium settings, not on school buses. My presentation gave a basic lesson plan for a 30-minute program that would tie in poor behavior and how it contributes to traffic accidents.
SBF Plus: What are the major advantages to this program?
Dallessandro: Well, it introduces young adults to actual school bus info. In the K-5 age bracket, most of the training revolves around animated videos and coloring books — soft, warm and fuzzy safety training. With 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds today playing fictional video games and watching movies that portray car crashes in a humorous way, kids get an improper vision of things. This program introduces them to school bus accidents as a serious thing. For instance, slides of an actual school bus accident may be incorporated into the program. Still, we try to use these slides as a backdrop and not refer to them as specific incidents because we want to continue to show the school bus industry in a safe, positive light. We don’t want to worry parents and students.
SBF Plus: Why is this targeted directly at middle school students?
Dallessandro: When you ask school bus drivers who on their routes needs the most safety information and who is the most difficult to handle, they always say the middle school students. And in my experience as a driver trainer, I would always hear drivers tell me during sessions, “Boy, you should show that to the middle school kids.”
SBF Plus: Where did you originally come up with the plan?
Dallessandro: We used to have a very active in-the-classroom school bus safety program, but the program ended after the fifth grade. So I figured that targeting the middle school age group was appropriate because these kids are yearning for adult treatment, but they haven’t fully matured yet. I wanted to deliver more mature subject matter while still retaining the safety training theme from younger age group lessons. As an added benefit, it gives transportation departments a larger role in the school, allowing them to interact with administrators, teachers and students a little more.