Hillsborough County students who live within 2 miles of their middle school or high school may no longer be eligible to ride the bus because of a lack of state funding for courtesy busing.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — After more than a year on hiatus, the First Observer program is set to come back online soon to resume the training of transportation professionals in security awareness.
The government program, which includes the School Bus First Observer module, has been dormant since December 2012, when its grant money ran out and wasn’t renewed by Congress.
Until then, First Observer (successor to Highway Watch) had been administered by grantee HMS Co. since 2008. After the grant expired, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) decided to bring the program in-house.
TSA’s Steve Sprague, who is now managing the First Observer program, told SBF that in early 2013, TSA brought in a new contractor. However, Sprague said that there was a lapse in the contractor’s ability to pick up the program.
“It has basically been languishing for at least a year now,” Sprague said. “But the program is not dead. It’s very much alive.”
Now, TSA is working to launch First Observer 2.0. As of this writing, Sprague said that the agency expected to get the First Observer modules back online soon. Then, TSA will solicit input from industry stakeholders — such as pupil transportation association officials — to identify any needed updates or other revisions.
Also, Sprague said that the First Observer contractor will add some instructional formatting, such as quizzes for trainees to take throughout the modules.
Bill Arrington, branch manager of TSA’s Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement, Surface Division, estimated that around 50,000 school bus professionals have been trained through First Observer. TSA has found that the pupil transportation community has been particularly engaged in the program.
“They truly care about the cargo that they carry,” Arrington told SBF, “and they understand that they have a role to play in preventing something bad from happening.”
Arrington said that there is no current intelligence indicating that there is an “actionable threat” to pupil transportation, but he stressed the importance of staying vigilant, which is a key tenet of First Observer.
“What this program is intended to do is to raise the level of awareness — to not fall into a sense of complacency,” Arrington said.
Sprague added that First Observer and Highway Watch have each been credited with helping to stop at least one terrorist event.
In one case, in February 2011, a Greyhound bus was hijacked by an armed man. Sprague said that the bus driver used principles that she learned in First Observer training to respond to the hijacker.
The driver reportedly dealt calmly with the armed man and persuaded him to stop the bus. She was able to get her passengers and herself off of the vehicle safely, and police captured the hijacker.
For more information, go to www.tsa.gov/first-observer.
NYAPT’s Nov. 20 survey of illegal school bus passing finds that 1,086 school bus drivers reported they were passed a total of 883 times.
Winning entries come from students in Minnesota, Kentucky, and British Columbia. Honorable mentions are also selected this year.
National and state pupil transportation groups offer their condolences to the families and others impacted by the fatal crash.
The fatal crash occurred on a curving road that was not part of driver Johnthony Walker’s route, investigators have found.
In a video statement, David Duke of Durham School Services issues an emotional apology to the families impacted by the crash, in which five students were killed.
The school bus driver in the single-vehicle crash in Chattanooga faces multiple charges, including vehicular homicide and reckless driving.
This production from Greenville (S.C.) County Schools instructs the district’s school bus drivers on procedures for loading and unloading students.
The driver of one of three buses traveling to Opryland in Nashville loses control of the bus and overcorrects, and the bus overturns when it hits a guardrail.
As two students in Marietta, Georgia, are exiting their bus, the driver sees a man shooting a gun nearby and brings the students back on board. The shooter can be seen in bus video footage.
If autonomous school buses are in our future, they will still need a pupil transportation professional on board to keep an eye on the kids and to make sure that loading and unloading are carried out safely.
A county prosecutor in New Jersey says that the investigation is ongoing, but it appears that the bus was properly within its lane of travel when it was struck by an SUV.
The bus, which was the only vehicle involved in the accident, hit a wall separating lanes of traffic as it was driving onto an interstate on-ramp. The bus driver told investigators she was blinded by the sunlight.
The new offering from 247Security gives managers key metrics on their video surveillance system and vehicle health.
Steven Longoria of Texas forms a friendship with a special-needs student. He then hears from a bus driver and the student's mother that motorists are not stopping for the bus, so he starts following it on its route.