ALBANY, N.Y. — On Wednesday, the one-year anniversary of the slaying of Alabama school bus driver Charles Poland Jr., the New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) paid tribute to Poland and announced steps it is taking to increase school bus security.
Poland, a driver for Dale County Schools, was fatally shot on Jan. 29, 2013, while protecting his passengers from an armed intruder, who then took a 5-year-old boy hostage for nearly a week.
NYAPT officials called Poland "a hero and an example for us in so many ways."
"In remembrance of his work and his ultimate sacrifice, and in recognition of the need to protect our children and our drivers from such incidents and violence, we have spent a lot of time in the past several months compiling ideas and working with state agencies, law enforcement, NAPT [the National Association for Pupil Transportation] and others who are asking the same questions about prevention and preparation and response," NYAPT officials said.
The association cited security-related efforts it is making, including:
• The NYAPT board of directors adopted a supplemental plank in its legislative agenda that calls for the state to support school district and school bus operator efforts to secure school bus facilities with security fencing, lighting and camera systems, and calling for additional protections for school bus drivers and personnel.
• The association is representing the school bus community in New York on the State Education Department (SED) Safe Schools Task Force. NYAPT officials said that they have had "lengthy discussions with task force members and committees as well as well-placed SED officials on our concerns and initial recommendations."
• On Tuesday, NYAPT presented testimony to the State Assembly that included a recommendation to allow school districts and school bus operators access to SAVE/NY funding and additional transportation aid to install fencing, lighting and surveillance technology to protect their school buses.
• The association continues to share ideas with school boards, superintendents and the state police on steps that can be taken to protect school buses, drivers and children, as well as best practices for threat assessments and risk management.
• NYAPT is supporting legislation that would make it a crime of criminal trespass to board a school bus without the authority and permission of the school district and the school bus driver. It would also establish crimes related to the assault or death of a school bus driver in the performance of his or her duties.
Over the past several months, NYAPT has developed a statement with recommendations that outlines concerns regarding security and safety, along with ideas and recommendations from the industry that could enhance security.
More on the Dale County school bus shooting/kidnapping: