HOUSTON — Second-graders at Houston's Elmore Elementary School brimmed with excitement as a small, robotic school bus with a stop arm, flashing headlights and blinking eyes rolled into the auditorium last week.
Soon they were getting an important lesson on bus safety, thanks to Houston Independent School District (HISD) transportation team members and Buster the School Bus, which is traveling around the district to teach children about being safe.
“I like Buster because he can spin around and his doors can open,” said second-grader Devin Jackson, who helped his classmates cheer on the bus as it flashed its lights and winked its eyes.
The presentation showed students how to behave before and after getting on the bus. Students were reminded to only approach the bus after it makes a complete stop and its red lights are flashing. Students were also advised to never play with emergency windows and doors on the bus, and they learned how to exit in case of an emergency.
“If there’s a fire, we have to go out the door at the back,” said Devin, who rides the school bus regularly.
HISD transports about 30,000 students to and from campus each school day across 900 routes.
“Bus safety is very important, but it’s hard to communicate the consequences of bad behavior on a school bus to students,” Elmore Assistant Principal Faith Fugit said. “This gave them a chance to see and think about school bus safety in a different light.”
During the presentation, students were instructed to always behave on the school bus. Students that bully classmates, fight, name call or won’t stay seated on the bus could be removed or suspended from riding the bus.
“Bus riding is a privilege,” HISD Transportation Safety Investigator Ashley Johnson told students. “If you do not know how to behave on the bus, your bus rider privileges can be taken away.”
The district’s transportation department will hold similar school bus safety events this month at other schools.
“Our students need to understand the importance of respecting their fellow students when riding the bus and reporting bullying to the bus driver right away,” said Byron Williams, the district’s transportation training and support manager. “We want to keep this conversation going so students can stay aware of what to do and what not to do on the bus.”