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October 12, 2010  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

NAPT News & Views

Try to interest reporters in the hard news that affects our industry during the school year.

by Barry McCahill

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Just say no to bullying

Bullying at school, on school buses and at school bus stops is a significant problem in many communities. (Actually, it’s a broader social problem that manifests itself at school settings.) But, like seat belts, it typically gets covered only when an incident happens and emotions are running high.

Instead, why not engage experts in the community to discuss steps that could be taken to minimize bullying in the first place? Why not start the school year with strong community resolve to not tolerate bullying?

Story idea: Reporters can feature the impact of bullying and how to prevent it by interviewing prominent local educators, law enforcement and a local child psychologist to give children the tools they need to deal with it if it happens, and parents information on behaviors they should look out for in their children. Bullying is a community problem that demands community solutions.

Bus passing won’t be tolerated
This is a problem in every community and arguably the largest risk to children riding on school buses. Many more children are injured and killed getting on and off buses than as passengers inside the bus.

Story idea: Drivers that get caught illegally passing a stopped school bus are like the tip of an iceberg. This is a huge problem for the school transportation industry — it happens millions of times every day — and very few people outside the industry even know about it.

How about a story on the variety of ways local law enforcement and local school transportation service providers can work together to solve this problem? Or, if your community doesn’t have a “safe stop” program, start one this year.

Can we really afford route cuts?
Let’s face it: The economy is in bad shape, and communities everywhere are making cuts to government programs. School bus routes are on the chopping block. Most stories talk only of the budget dollars involved, not the human impact.

There is a mostly untold story about the effect this has on education. The school bus is vital for learning to occur because it ensures that children are delivered to school predictably, and it provides parents with unprecedented convenience.

Story idea: Reporters can interview a parent who no longer has school bus transportation available. Focus on how elimination of a school bus route affects not just children but their parents. Convey how the absence of a school bus impacts traffic congestion in the community. Point out the safety benefits of a school bus versus parents driving children to school, or even children walking and bicycling.

Ask employers if they have adopted policies so parents can come in later and leave earlier because they need to drive their children to and from school. Ask local police about the impact of additional traffic with more parents on the roads driving children during busy times of the day. These and more impacts seldom get discussed when budgets need to be slashed.

In summary, there are plenty of “hard” news stories to tell about pupil transportation. Some of the suggested topics above may fit in your community and some may not, but there are many other possible stories and story angles to explore.

Barry McCahill is communications consultant for NAPT.

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