The March 2 shooting of school bus driver Joyce Gregory has left many of us in the pupil transportation industry asking the following questions: Have we done enough? And, just what have we done?
Collectively and individually, all of us have invested much in shepherding our industry to the position it is in today — the safest way for a child to travel. And while that is notable, there is never time to stop and look back — we have to keep going forward.
In that light, the National Association for Pupil Transportation, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services and the National School Transportation Association have come to recognize the commonality of our purpose, and we have begun to devote much time and energy to developing synergy of our activities. That is leading to important steps forward in the name of pupil transportation. Smoke and mirrors? Absolutely not! While our steps forward with regard to pupil transportation safety and security sometimes feel like they are not happening fast enough, the momentum is building. Stay tuned, as the momentum builds, we will be asking many, if not all of you, to participate actively.
Reflections on a tragedy
With regard to the March 2 shooting, please take the opportunity to reflect on the following.
Like 500,000 fellow school bus drivers around the country, Joyce Gregory’s day began very early and routinely when she left home to start her route.
But unlike any other driver in the long and proud history of pupil transportation, her day ended suddenly and criminally when a teenage student who rode her bus shot and killed her as she stopped to pick him up.
What an especially chilling and senseless end to a life marked by caring for others. Our heartfelt condolences and prayers are with the Gregory family and the families of the children who were riding in her bus that day.
We mourn the loss of a wife, mother of two, and colleague. Many parents in Cumberland City, Tenn., knew Joyce Gregory as the responsible, reliable adult who transported their children two times every school day.
Let’s strive for greater safety
A tragedy such as this will cause many to ask, “Is my child’s school bus safe?” The answer is yes — a school bus is the safest vehicle on the road. There is no safer way for a child to get to and from school. Parents also should know that the people who work in the school transportation industry hold the safety and security of children in the highest regard. And, many of those professionals are stakeholders as well because their own children ride yellow school buses.
The school transportation industry always has and always will take proactive steps to evaluate all issues related to school bus safety and security. And while it is difficult to stop some types of violence, it is not impossible. Recognizing this, the three national associations have initiated work jointly with Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Highway Watch and other resources to take important strides forward. Our goals are to direct our energies and passion for our work into further maximizing the safety of our school children and continuously re-analyzing the security of our school buses.
As parents, students, transportation professionals, and world citizens, we mourn the passing of Joyce Gregory. But rest assured in the knowledge that her tragic death will inspire her colleagues across the nation to work even harder to further the safety and security of children as they ride in the big yellow school bus.
Steve Kalmes is president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation; Pete Japikse is president of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services; and Dale Krapf is president of the National School Transportation Association.