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March 03, 2011  |   Comments (12)   |   Post a comment

Rhode Island family challenges school bus monitor bill


PROVIDENCE, R.I. — At a public hearing scheduled for Thursday, the House Municipal Government Committee is to hear testimony from a local family, the Pendergasts, in favor of preserving the state's mandate for safety monitors on all school buses for kindergartners up to fifth-graders.

In 1985, Vanessa Anne Pendergast was killed by her school bus. She was crossing in front of the bus, and the bus driver reportedly was turned around trying to settle a disruption among students when the bus accelerated, striking and killing Vanessa.

House Bill 5186 would eliminate the school bus monitor mandate, leaving cities and towns to decide whether to continue employing them, the Middletown Patch reports.

Since the mandate was passed in 1986, the Pendergasts argue, no children have been killed by buses when a safety monitor was present. Prior to the mandate, at least one school bus fatality occurred each year between 1979 and 1986.  

Vanessa's father, Bill Pendergast, told the news source that legislation supporting the removal of the safety monitor mandate often comes up during economic downturns. His wife, Sophia, is a founding member of Families Insisting on Safe Student Transportation, and has been an advocate for school bus safety for 25 years.

The family said it worries that without a monitor, bus drivers will not be able to effectively manage the behavior of bus passengers while maintaining concentration on driving.

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Read more about: aide/monitor, Rhode Island, school bus security

9 times out of 10 a school bus driver without a monitor may beat the odds. But it's that tenth time when a monitor would have made a difference in avoiding a tragedy.

Sam    |    Mar 13, 2014 11:03 AM

Drivers using a cell phone or texting while driving is not allowed because it will be too distracting to the driver. So, why is it acceptable for drivers to be distracted by trying to monitor 30 to 60 children while driving?

B.D.    |    Mar 13, 2014 08:00 AM

Hunter Pitt, a 6-year-old in Callaway County, Mo., was killed in January 2011 when his school bus ran over him as he crossed in front.The driver Willie Leonberger said, that a commotion on the bus distracted him as Hunter was unloading...The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and other state organizations created a video that explains the accident and emphasizes the importance of school bus drivers staying focused, particularly when children are loading and unloading.DRIVERS CANNOT STAY FOCUSED ON DRIVING WHILE BEING DISTRACTED BY COMMOTIONS!!! It's typical of many companies across fields to not give employees what they need to do their job properly then blame them when problems occur. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and other state organizations chose to save money and make a video rather that effectively deal with these situations by employing monitors. Mr. Leonberger has a deep sense of guilt and has been very noble in accepting sole responsibility for the accident while trying to redeem himself, which is understandable. But the unalterable fact is that had there been a monitor on that bus HUNTER PITT WOULD BE ALIVE TODAY! Willie Leonberger and the Pitt family should file lawsuits against the district!

Bus Driver    |    Mar 12, 2014 09:13 AM

I can't agree more that there should be monitors on all school buses, k thru 5 and middle school as well. I've driven a school bus for ten years and I can tell you that it's impossible to monitor the kids and maintain safe driving standards at the same time. When drivers are distracted this way neither responsibility is given the proper attention. No one working in student transportation would disagree that monitors add improved safety to the school bus environment. Meaning that monitors aren't being cut because they aren't needed. They're being cut because of money. Which is more important child safety or money? It's negligent on the part of school districts to put drivers and students in this position. I don't think it would be that hard for a good attorney to convince a judge or jury of this fact in a lawsuit filed by parents. How many tragedies does it have to take to force the districts to do the right thing.

Bus Driver    |    Mar 11, 2014 08:25 PM

In West Warwick's meeting a couple of weeks ago they proposed to have the children walk a mile to a bus stop...they expect a 40lb, three foot tall Kindergartner to make it to a bus stop a mile away and not get hurt, snatched, hit by a car...actually make it there...these schools are ridiculous...they dont care about the safety of our children!!!! However, the Superintendant of West Warwick has two secretaries that make 90K between each other!!! They can hire me for the same pay I make and they will save themselves 60K and Ill save some gas money...then that 60K can go towards the safety of these children! Let me add there are also 14 known sex offenders in West Warwick alone. (that we know of) Next they will propose the bus monitors to be removed as well...what is this state coming to when they put a price tag on these children's lives? I wonder if they sleep well at night?

Dev    |    Apr 01, 2012 07:37 PM

imes has changed and more people on the roads these days and drive more crasy then before. I can tell you first hand when my son got hit by a car just a few years ago getting off the bus on a rural road in Burriville and there was no bus monitor that day (and really a few days prior) if there was a bus monitor present he or she would have seen the car coming around the bus and stopped my son before he stepped into the area where the truck hit him. how can you put a price on the saftey of children that are still learning the do's and don't of saftey. Luckliy my son did not die that day but was only inches from possible death. He did get hit and suffered severe injuries but has surrived. I know we are in a cash shortage in many comunities but theere are many other things that could be cut in the school that would not involve something put there for saftey. Not really sure what the bus monitor pay is but they have very limited hours so it really can not be that much.

ken    |    Mar 16, 2012 12:07 PM

As a student in the 50s and 60s, I rode a bus every school day. I, and everyone I knew at the time survived. I believe this special service should not be forced on all taxpayers and that local governments should decide themselves whether or not to have monitors. Parents, if that concerned, should either pay an fee to support monitor service, or get out to the bus stop in person to guide their children on and off the bus.

Art    |    Jan 14, 2012 09:42 AM

well here we go again blaming the part time bus monitor for the financial woes that are happening in various cities and towns in rhode island.I can tell u from experience being a bus monitor for almost 15 years now there is,nt a day that has gone by when we are not needed and now that i have my c.d.l.,thats right i took the plunge and decided to drive the bus ,because of the last threat when they were going to get rid of bus monitors.So now i get to see the situation from both sides if i was on the bus by myself without a bus monitor the drive to school would be 10 times more stressful than it already is.There are alot of people that don,t realize what goes into a ''regular '' day on the bus never mind when it is raining out or worse snowing your attention is heightened on driving in such a manner of having to worry about what the other driver will do in adverse road conditions.You are paying even closer attention to where your children get off at and your looking for the other driver not paying attention to the ''reds '' being on so when there is a bus monitor on not only does he or she make sure the children are quiet but they are your extra eyes for all situations that come up they also watch for the parents at the door while the driver is watching for cars passing the bus or bikers or people crossing in front of the bus ,the driver not only has to make sure there is someone home for a child but they have to have eyes in the back of their heads to watch what is going on in the bus and around the bus so i would like for the legislator who thinks it is a great cost saving measure to get rid of the monitors to spend one week going on various busses throughout the state and come back w his report on how well a bus would run safely without a bus monitor.

nansi lynch    |    Mar 28, 2011 05:32 PM

I have been driving a school bus for 15 years and we despertly need the bus monitors. You can't put a price tag on a childs life. Just because there are towns in finantial trouble people want to take away the saftey of a child???? First and foremost the safety of our children is the number one issue here, but these bus monitors do more than just cross children and look under the bus. They take care of the many problems that arise in the bus on a daily basis. How about when there is a fight, or a bloody nose, or a sick child, or a hundred other things that happen on a bus that the general public doesn't no about. There are many other issues that these monitors take care of so the driver can concentrate on the driving. If I had to pull over everytime one of these problems came up we would never make it to school on time nor do i think we could make it there safely. We need to pay attention to the road when we are driving. There is no doubt in my mind that without these monitors, our buses would not be as safe.

MB    |    Mar 15, 2011 08:19 PM

I have been a school bus driver for 15+ years and can tell you that monitors are needed. The county I live in does not have monitors on "regular" buses. I have seen and heard things that people would not believe. I have pulled off of the road to take care of discipline issues. When an incident occurs, drivers are questioned by everybody(parents, administrators, law enforcement). I wish that people could understand that I cannot see everything; my eyes are on the road. We need monitors for the safety of the children, the driver, and the rest of the community who are traveling along with us on the road.

C. Robinson    |    Mar 07, 2011 11:07 AM

I have been a bus monitor for 12 1/2 years. It really upsets me that once agian this is on that table and once agian our childern have to pay the price for something they have nothing to do with. I would like to know why there isn't pay cuts or pay freezes across the board. As a bus monitor i have came across alot of things you would not believe that happens on a school bus for one i had a child come to me and tell me they were being thouched in the wrong way by the father the father was found Guilty on sexual abuse on a child. I wish all of you would drive on a school bus with k-5 and see for yourself how we not only help the childern but the driver as well. I would love to see you all drive a school bus with 65-83 childern on it and see how well you can keep your eyes on the road and keep all the childern safe. I strongly hope this doesn't happen you all put way to much on the school bus driver. Just keep in mined if there was this many childern in a class room there would be more than one adult to attend to the childern but because it's a school bus you all think the driver is a miracle worker and can do it all on there own watch the road make sure the childern are in the seats and not horsing around or hitting another child. We as bus monitors only work 20hrs a week i'm sure you can fined many other ways to save alot more money than getting rid of people that work 20 hrs.

Anonymous    |    Mar 07, 2011 09:34 AM

As a school bus monitor for an island school, I believe that bus monitors are a very valuable and useful necessity. On school buses. Not only do we make sure that children arrive safely to there doorsteps, we also take alot of s starin off and already busy busdriver. We control fights, yelling, and movement on the buses so that the driver can concntrate on the road...even more important under extreme weather conditions, that could be preludes to accidents during storms, snow, heavy wind and torrential rains. By keeping the children in there seats, so the driver is not distracted during such weather. Its as if they are saying that a driver doesn't have enough worries, and families shouldn't expect for there kids to arrive home safely. We are employed part time. How about cutting costs elsewhere, I don't know...let's start with how much senate, congress and political figures get paid?

tracy muller    |    Mar 04, 2011 08:15 AM

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