On July 9, 2013, John Moody did not know that his name and the bus he was driving would become the focus of this nation on the issue of whether a school bus driver has to break up a fight on the bus.
I have taught thousands of bus drivers around the U.S., and whenever I train on the issue of defensible use of force on the bus, it’s amazing to me that every single driver in the audience stays engaged in the training.
The longtime drivers ask questions that have been on their minds for years. The new drivers ask questions that they are afraid to ask their supervisors in fear that they will be told not to worry about it — or the infamous “You can’t lay a hand on a child on your bus” response.
In my more than 32 years in the law enforcement field and more than 27 years of private consulting, I have found that the training bus drivers receive is definitely not “reality based” for crisis response situations.
One example I can offer to make this point was when I provided some training for a client and the client’s 91 bus drivers. I decided to take all of the drivers who received my initial training out on the road on three different buses, where each driver was going to have to demonstrate the proper procedures for what to do if a fight broke out on their bus.
Even though during the training every bus driver was able to speak the steps out correctly, we discovered that when it came time for them to actually perform these procedures while I was on their bus with a stopwatch yelling out “Fight!”, every driver failed to complete all of the required steps under that simulated stress situation while the bus was in motion.
You see, there is training, and then there is reality training. Unfortunately, the aforementioned Gulfport, Fla., incident — and, earlier this year, the Alabama hostage situation in which school bus driver Charles Poland was killed by a gunman who took a 5-year-old student hostage — has given national pupil transportation supervisors and drivers what I refer to as a “reality awakening.”
Let me be clear that this is no fault of transportation organizations. We live in a reactive society where, if you bring up crisis before it occurs, you are considered paranoid or overthinking situations. In many cases, no training was ever considered in this arena for bus drivers even though the drivers themselves would tell you that they have been dealing with progressively more serious violent incidents on their buses for many years now.
I have always believed that if you want to know about how someone feels about their safety in their job, you should ask them and not the people they work for. Performing a climate survey of your drivers is very important.
What I will shed light on in this article is the infamous question all bus drivers ask when they start: “Do I have to physically intervene if someone is fighting on my bus?”