Drivers protect students during shootings
Jamila Jones and Luz Rivera
First Student Inc.
New Haven, Conn.
School bus drivers Jamila Jones and Luz Rivera faced the dangers in two New Haven neighborhoods head on last year while on their afternoon routes.
On March 11, Jones was preparing for her final drop-off when she encountered a shooting in progress. She says she heard gunshots, and when she looked to her right, she saw a kid wearing a mask shooting at the other side of the street; another kid was returning fire.
“I was shocked,” Jones says. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
Even though she says she was scared, Jones remembered her training: She told the five students on board — two were her children and one was her niece — to get on the floor, and she made a U-turn to leave the area.
Once she was several blocks away, in a safe location, Jones contacted dispatch and comforted the students. She also notified their parents of the incident once she reached their stop.
Nearly a week later, on March 17, Rivera was proceeding to the first stop on her afternoon route when she witnessed two young men shooting at one another.
“I was terrified — I had my own children on the bus,” she says. “But my job is to protect the kids, to bring them home safely.”
With cars all around her bus, Rivera says she could not leave the area, so she secured the bus and told the eight students to get under the seats.
She then called dispatch, and police arrived quickly and stopped the shooting.
Location Manager Britt Liotta says his operation does pre-hire emergency response training with bus drivers, and once individuals join the team, he covers with them what they can expect when driving in New Haven, and the operation’s protocol for handling emergencies.
“Each driver is going to react differently, but in these cases, Jamila and Luz thought about their students before themselves, which is a tribute to them — they’re good employees,” Liotta says. “These are just two examples of the type of drivers that we have. New Haven is a large town, and they’ve done a fantastic job.”
— KELLY ROHER