File photo courtesy John Horton

File photo courtesy John Horton

In this industry, student safety is obviously of great concern to us. However, two recent, frightening incidents should also turn our attention toward the safety of bus drivers.

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, a school bus driver was shot at and wounded in February by a motorist because the bus driver reportedly sideswiped his van. The bus driver was taken by ambulance for a wound to his left arm and graze wound on his head. Thankfully, the one student aboard at the time, an 8-year-old girl, wasn’t injured.

After shooting at the bus, the motorist, Kenneth Lilly, walked to the driver’s side of the bus and called 911. As we previously reported, Lilly told officers that he feared for his safety and that was why he shot at the bus driver. However, video footage showed the defendant had retreated to a safe spot before walking in front of the bus and shooting.

Meanwhile, in Detroit, Michigan, it was widely reported that two men boarded a school bus and beat and robbed the driver in front of the students on board. The reason: his bus apparently grazed the side of a vehicle and knocked off a mirror, according to a GoFundMe page set up for the driver. The bus surveillance camera captured the January incident, and the footage attracted attention on social media, which prompted the fundraising effort on the driver’s behalf.

These two incidents, both of which made national news, demonstrate the importance of providing drivers proper training and support. And one form of support can be critical — having incidents recorded on camera.

Thankfully, cameras caught these violent acts, and in the case of the Detroit incident, those cameras were on the school bus.

Video surveillance cameras are also helpful in managing or investigating incidents impacting student safety, of course.

In February, a registered sex offender in St. Paul, Minnesota, allegedly hid inside an empty school bus before kindergartners got back on board following a field trip. He was discovered soon after and arrested. (No students were harmed.) The offender said he mistakenly boarded the wrong bus. However, bus camera footage showed him prying the bus doors open and entering the empty bus at another location before it arrived at the art center, a mother of one of the students told WCCO.

Speaking of cameras enhancing safety, we explore the benefits of using stop-arm cameras to catch illegal passers in a story in our April/May issue. In addition to offering greater boarding, exiting, and crossing safety for students, districts can share revenue from fines and capture, process, and submit evidence of violations much quicker and more efficiently with them.

In recent related news, we have seen more states consider legislation to allow or even require stop-arm cameras on school buses. One of those bills is even providing funding to purchase the cameras. Ohio’s House Bill 89 would appropriate $1 million in grants to school districts to purchase stop-arm cameras in fiscal year 2020.

Although school buses are the safest form of transportation for students, it is heartening to see more attention being paid to keeping an extra eye on safety — for both students and drivers.

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James Blue

James Blue

General Manager

James Blue was the general manager of METRO Magazine.

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