School bus industry wrestles with special interests over use of restraints

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According to a recent school bus industry magazine article, Industry Wrestles with Seclusion, Restraint Issue on School Buses, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) last year introduced Senate Bill 2020, the “Keeping All Students Safe Act,” which would ban seclusion and restraint unless the student poses an immediate danger of serious bodily injury to themselves or other students.

According to Office of Civil Rights data released in March, at least 38,792 students were physically restrained during the 2009-2010 school year.

The well-written article by Paul Chavez (STN), includes a Tennessee-based attorney specializing in special education mentioning that, “No one wants to see a child inappropriately secluded or restrained.”

Attorney Melinda Jacobs continues with her concern, “If Congress passes this in line with what Sen. Harkin proposes, it will make it nearly impossible to restrain any student under any circumstances.” She added that the unintended consequence could lead to more severely disabled students being placed in restrictive environments outside the public school system and district transportation.

Jocobs misses another important point. Too many school officials are unwilling to suffer the attacks from bully protectors claiming that isolation of bullies until fully resolved and discipline (education/punishment) served is an unfair remedy that can traumatize the bullies, and on and on.

When special self-interests invade an issue, which may have happened with this issue, it is the civil children and the targets of bullying that can end up most isolated and punished. Jolie Montlick presents this effect in her music video.

This restraint rights mentality lends to the fear administrations express in the press when they state use of seat belts on their school buses is voluntary.

The article can misrepresent just about any situation, depending on the perspective of the reader. What I see is over stepping and abuse of bus driver authority by special interests and politics that can result in more harm than good. These sorts of policy invasions endanger the safety of all, including the motoring public.

To use blanket accusations involving unskilled, under trained, and frustrated school bus drivers and aides as the norm for a policy to interfere with all drivers/aides duties and authority on the buses is both risky to the safety of all and a clue that special interests are involved in the policy making.

There are the pompous, the elite, fearful employee controllers, the special self-interests, and the mollycoddling that refuse to recognize the tremendous necessity to help our nation's school bus drivers maintain safe environments for children, as well as safe workplaces for the employees.

The biggest clue is requiring long drawn out Miranda-like approaches with a series of warnings and reports before a hostile condition is addressed, if ever. These approaches can assure an increase in both child and driver/aide frustration and a resulting increase in unwanted events.

The school bus is a controlled environment, a true safe bus environment involves skilled drivers and aides having the authority to make immediate interventions that can include immediate assistance from law enforcement. The biggest deterrent toward the safety of all is to over bureaucratize the process. Keep-It-Simple-Stupid (KISS) has not been in such desperate need as it has become in the school bus industry.

School bus drivers often complain that school officials do not use their authority to remove hostile children from their buses. These same drivers have the authority to do so themselves but are often afraid to use it -- the authority to immediately refuse to transport a hazard. A child or unruly children refusing to follow directions can be explosive hazards on the bus during boarding and departure, in route, and at the bus stops.

It may be true that school officials ignoring a safe environment for children on the buses are committing a form of child neglect. This in addition to creating an unsafe condition and hostile workplaces for their bus drivers.

Would that also be true of bus drivers that refuse themselves to act in the best interests of helping keep children safe?

There are many examples of school bus drivers trying to intervene in a school’s disinterest to help stop the violence on their school buses.

Video: Bus Drivers Fed Up

In April, Houston school bus drivers became one of the most recent efforts to demand school officials do more to address unruly behavior by students who ride the buses.

The drivers reported, “They’re smoking on the bus, fighting on the bus, and the good kids have to suffer,” said Charles Primes. Primes joined with several other drivers at a school bus depot to draw attention to what a lot of them consider a crisis. “You don’t want your kids or grandkids on a bus right now,” Primes said. “It’s that bad.”

The initial effort made the press but follow-up seems missing.

Some bus drivers boast, “I can handle the noise, unruliness and other distractions,” all while committing a disservice to the substitute drivers that may not be able to so-called ‘handle it’, as well as performing a disservice to the route’s future drivers.

What is seldom discussed in this industry is the effect that unnecessary stress can have on bus driver health. The occupation’s stress alone can mean a shorter life. Exposure to diesel fumes and other work-related pollutants on a daily basis add to the effect.

Urban bus driving is a good living, Zook reflected drily at a recent interview at her office in Oakland, California, but it may well lead to a short life. "The fact of the matter is, we die young," said Zook, now president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192. "The job kills you over time." ~ Central Health - A Local Nonprofit Healthcare System Comprised of Lynchburg General and Virginia Baptist Hospitals, Guggenheimer Nursing Home, Pathways Treatment Center and many more.

A paid healthcare benefit for school bus drivers is a trade-off, not a benefit.

Part of the answer may be an unsafe workplace complaint to OSHA. Any employee and/or their representative can make a confidential complaint to OSHA, but few do. Again, fear seems a primary motivation not to complain. The result can be disastrous for students and their drivers.

Kids are not the only targets of violence.  There seem endless examples in the news media where the failure of the adults to act promoted an escalation. This actual issue is too often made excuses for, or simply ignored, even by industry and government officials.

According to a Time Business Magazine article, the targets of workplace torment aren’t the only casualties of the phenomenon. A new study by Canadian researchers, published in the most recent issue of the journal Human Relations, suggests that co-workers who witness bullying are also traumatized by the phenomenon, and are as likely as victims themselves to look for a new job. ~ Workplace Bullying: The Problem — and Its Costs — Are Worse Than We Thought

Where neglect has resulted in an escalating hostile environment it would seem within the students’ and bus driver’s best interests to exercise their authority already established in statute to have escorted off the bus any unruly child or unruly children refusing to follow the bus driver's directions.

But that is not the usual method at dysfunctional workplaces. At these workplaces passive school bus drivers give the offending student several warnings, issue citations, and wait and wait for a school action that may not happened until the child, the bus driver, or both escalate to violence on the bus.

Too many referrals to the school and the bus driver can end up blamed for the unruliness happening on his or her school bus. Most bus drivers that experience disinterested school support know this reality and eventually respond by ignoring the misbehavior happening on their buses and at the bus stops. And when the kids escalate, again, the bus driver is often blamed.

Joyce Gregory, (RIP), did her best to contain a child with warnings and citations. The child continued to escalate against her efforts to maintain a safe, civil environment.

Early morning March 2, 2005, we can imagine her dread to again transport this out of control student to school on her bus. Some can imagine she felt it was her job to do so until advised otherwise. When she opened the entrance door to greet and board the 14 year old, he responded with murder -- killing her with several shots from a .45-caliber handgun.

Some say she died doing her job.

Hundreds of school bus drivers are seriously injured every year, because it seems no one really cared to step up and help intervene in an unruly child’s or a mob mentality before it escalated to horrific violence. The result can be serious injuries in and outside the bus from students refusing to follow safe student practices -- escalating to fights, bullying, sexual attacks ...

and death.

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Joyce Gregory – In Her Memory. 1958 – 2005 Joyce Gregory (47) school bus driver was shot by a 14-year-old boy. Gregory had reported the boy for using smokeless tobacco on the bus. There were 24 students on the bus, ranging from kindergarten to the 12th grade. Gregory died in the driver's seat, in Cumberland City, Tennessee on March 2, 2005. May she rest in peace. School Bus Driver Stamp

No Charges for Bus Supervisor Accused of Assaulting Student -  The prosecutor's office cited numerous reasons for the decision, including a history of bad behavior by the student. A decision was made to have an adult ride the bus with the child, to help control the child's behavior, due to safety concerns for others on the bus.


  1. I expected to post this article in March, but did not get it done. My apologies.

  2. I can see kids with special needs/handicaps who benefit from harnesses however a student who is so out of control that the bus shouldn't/can't be moved those students need different form of parental supervised in a private vehicle or if necissary officer assistance to keep students safe at all times. There is also a thing called a taxi and public bus system for those parents claiming no Transportation at home trust me when they are in want of something they find the way it shouldn't be "sorry can't do for my kid " Parents are solely responsible for their child no matter where they go,and what they do till they are of legal age and even beyond if necissary. We are human beings "Train a child in the way he should go and he will not flee from it" Proverbs22:6 that means we take them in hand and show them how to behave. We as parents are the adults it is time we all learn and display it

  3. Having a proper proper school bus restraint system is extremely important. A restraint system like seat belts or buckles or three way restraints can help to properly secure the children or the kids during any accidents and can save their lives from death or from getting hurt. Also school buses carries cargos during trips and excursions. Cargo restraint system for cargos in school buses can also save the cargos from falling on the isle and hurting the kids during any accident.


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