Although it's not frequently mentioned, school buses are adorned with more decals and lettering than nearly any other vehicle on the road. The messages range from the short — "Emergency Exit" and "Unauthorized Entry Illegal" — to the long — "$100 to $500 Fine for Passing a Stopped School Bus When Red Lights Are Flashing."
According to Rusty Mitchell, marketing manager at Blue Bird Corp., the bus manufacturer stocks more than 1,200 different appliques for its school bus customers. The amazing number of choices, Mitchell says, is due to customers' often-unique needs and the wide range of existing state specifications.
Jim Soppelsa, vice president of Sun Art Decals Inc., which designs and manufactures stock and custom decals, says the variation of decals is simply "the nature of marking school buses." Each school district or contractor might specify lettering with a different width, height, color, font and background. "We do a lot of short-run custom variations of standard decals," he says. "It's one of our strengths."
No guns allowed
In Ohio, school buses now sport an unusual sticker that warns against bringing a gun on the bus (see graphic above). That prohibition would seem to be common sense, but state lawmakers chose to require the sticker because of a concealed weapon law that took effect April 8, 2004.
Brian Whitta, a pupil transportation consultant to the Ohio Department of Education, says the sticker is required on all school buses in the state, citing the following e-mail from state officials:
"The recent passage of House Bill 12 (the concealed carry bill) has resulted in an impact upon school bus operations. Part of the bill prohibits citizens from carrying concealed handguns into certain locations, including school safety zones. By definition, school buses are included in school safety zones. The bill requires posting of a notice that advertises this fact.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol has designed and will furnish a decal to be applied on all buses currently in service. Those stickers will be distributed to school bus owners along with a letter from the patrol detailing the sticker's use and application instructions. After September 1, 2004, the decals will be required to be applied to any new buses by the manufacturers.
Please do not design or apply any decal of your own design, or any decal not designed and approved by the State Patrol."
Sun Art's Soppelsa, who works at the company's Berea, Ohio, headquarters, says the concealed-weapon sticker is meant to warn parents that they cannot board a school bus with a gun, even if they have a concealed-weapon permit.
"So if Mom or Dad takes Junior to the bus stop and boards the bus with a concealed weapon, they'll be in violation of the law and can be successfully prosecuted," Soppelsa explains.