School Bus Drivers Take Heat for Closing Windows

Thomas McMahon
Posted on August 27, 2018

Two recent incidents involved student misbehavior and school bus windows. File photo courtesy NHTSA
Two recent incidents involved student misbehavior and school bus windows. File photo courtesy NHTSA
Many school buses lack air-conditioning systems, so the windows and roof hatches are often used to ventilate the bus on hot days.

In some parts of the country, school buses are now back on the road amid high temperatures. Two recent incidents in the news show what a touchy subject the use of school bus windows can be when it comes to student conduct.

In Milford, Delaware, a school bus driver was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly shutting the windows on her bus because of student misbehavior.

The alleged incident occurred on May 31, and a parent reported it to a school resource officer. The bus in question was operated by a contractor for Milford School District.

According to the Milford Police Department, an investigation found that the school bus driver pulled the bus over and closed the windows, along with the ceiling air vents. Police said that the driver’s action, reportedly in response to the students being too loud, caused the temperature in the bus to rise.

Six students, ranging in age from 6 to 11, reported heat-related symptoms to parents when they arrived home, the Milford Police Department said.

After a review of the case by the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, a warrant was obtained for school bus driver Teresa Grunden, 54. She was arrested on Wednesday of last week and charged with six counts of endangering the welfare of a child. She is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 17.

In Jackson, Michigan, a similar incident on a hot day last week caught attention in the news and on social media. In this case, the bus in question was operated by a contractor for Northwest Community Schools, and the district reviewed footage from on-bus video cameras and data from GPS.

In a letter to parents, district Superintendent Geoff Bontrager said that a substitute school bus driver, who was covering an unfamiliar route on Thursday, asked students several times to lower their voices, stay in their seats, and keep their hands inside the windows while the bus was in motion. Bontrager said that the bus was running late, and as the students kept sticking their heads and hands out the windows, the driver told several passengers to put up the windows.

“At no time in the route was the heat turned on,” Bontrager noted. “During the entire route, several windows and roof vents remained open.”

The superintendent said the investigation determined that the school bus driver “did consider student safety” but didn’t respond with Northwest Community Schools’ expected positive behavior interventions. According to Bontrager, the driver, whom he did not identify in his letter, will not continue to drive for the district, and law enforcement will decide whether to take further action.

Clearly, there’s a quandary that can arise when bus windows are open. Students sticking their heads and hands out of the windows, as reported in the Michigan incident, is a serious safety issue. On the other hand, there are times when the windows need to be open to provide relief from the heat — which, unfortunately, can make behavior management more difficult.

With that in mind, does your operation have a policy on the use of school bus windows? And how should drivers handle situations like those described above? Post a comment below.

Related Topics: air conditioning, behavior management, law enforcement, school start, weather

Thomas McMahon Executive Editor
Comments ( 19 )
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  • Roger

     | about 2 years ago

    I live in Texas and we are dealing with hundreds of parents removing children from public schools to move them to charter schools, due to this, school administrators increasingly want to appease the parents by giving ridiculous concessions. For example, teachers have little to no resources in classroom discipline. For example, a common consequence of not doing or bring the homework was that the child would lose their recess break and do the homework then. Which is in no way a beneficial for the teacher because they become hostages during their lunch break in their own classroom. But was a good resource, well, the school district has decided to remove that and other discipline resources to where no child can be left without their recess, or be made to sit quietly during lunch, etc. This should serve you all to set the stage for what we face with discipline in the bus. Yes, it is unfair to throw the driver under the bus because the children do not behave in the vehicle, especially while it is in motion. What is the driver supposed to do if children keep throwing things out the bus, keep putting their hands and heads out etc? Certainly, in the first case, the driver retaliated against children, and that is not appropriate in any case, especially when children are put at risk. It is definitely unfair to punish her so harshly, possibly ruining her life when the solution is simple. Put working AC systems on the bus. But alas, we are constantly forced to drive vehicles within 4/32 of an inch of being legal or not. Heat should be considered a safety issue, just like a missing headlight. I wonder, what is more dangerous, a broken tail light or the entire bus, driver included exposed to a heat stroke?

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