Any touching related to specific student handling requirements on the special-needs bus is appropriate and should be done in a timely manner. Any touching by the driver team that is not related to those requirements is inappropriate.
Special-needs buses (lift or non-lift) should have video monitoring in place as much to protect the driver team from false accusations of inappropriate touching as to document inappropriate student behavior.
Here are examples of appropriate and inappropriate touching on the special-needs bus.
Touch: Applying first aid or CPR when a child requires it and it is based on the specific training and certifications completed.
Don’t touch: Doing extraordinary measures during first aid or CPR that go beyond specific training. Or, performing any first aid or CPR when your certification has expired. (Read carefully and fully understand the Good Samaritan laws of your state regarding personal liability when using first aid and/or CPR.)
Touch: Applying specific behavior management strategies for which there are written guidelines for the bus that were provided by the IEP committee on a student-specific basis.
Don’t touch: Using specific behavior management strategies for a specific student that were not written as guidelines generated by the IEP committee.
Touch: Any emergency on or near the special-needs bus that clearly warrants student evacuation by the safest bus exit and by the most moderate means possible. Appropriate touching examples are:
Lifting students from wheelchairs.
Lifting students out of child safety seats or lifting child safety seats with children still secured in them.
Unbuckling students from their seat belts by the fastest means possible.
Using a belt cutter as needed.
For special-needs drivers alone — doing a one-person lift of a student, with your arms under child’s arms, by taking firm hold of their forearms and pressing your chest against their back while dragging the student backward down the aisle and out of the bus.
For special-needs driver teams lifting a student from a wheelchair, a child safety seat or a bench seat using the two-person lift — one adult is at the child’s head, and the other adult is at the child’s feet (holding underneath his or her knees) to move the child down the aisle and out the nearest safe bus exit.
Placing a student on an evacuation blanket after they have been lifted by one or two adults and proceeding to the nearest safe bus exit.
If a student has been identified as a “runner” by the IEP committee, the driver team should maintain a hand or body hold of the child during evacuation to keep him or her from running out into traffic or away from the accident scene. Bystanders can be directed to hold the child firmly by the hand or around the waist until relieved by authorities.
Don’t touch: Some of these activities could be inappropriate during an emergency bus evacuation:
Removing a child from their wheelchair when the wheelchair and child could be evacuated using manual operation of the lift platform to safely exit.