Every year, school districts spend about $22 billion on student transportation and 500,000 yellow buses travel our roads daily. 55 percent of K-12 students ride the bus to school. School bus drivers across the country are entrusted with the care and safety of more than 25 million children as they are transported to and from school and school-related activities. In total, school buses provide 10 billion annual student rides.
ATU represents school bus drivers employed by public school districts and private contractors across the United States and Canada. Drivers are not only responsible for the safe and proper operation of the school bus, but also must often respond to medical and other emergencies that may arise during the trip to and from school, as well as disciplinary problems and all-too frequent outbreaks of violence aboard their buses. School bus drivers, as friend and care giver to the children entrusted to them, are often the first to respond in such instances and can serve to warn school officials when a child is demonstrating violent or other potentially dangerous behavior early in the school day.
Despite the many miles traveled, school buses are generally considered to be the safest motor vehicles on the highway. From 2000-2009 more than 370,000 fatal motor vehicle crashes occurred – only 0.34% were school transportation-related.
Despite the critical importance of pupil transportation, school bus drivers employed by private contractors receive lower wages and fewer benefits than drivers employed by school districts. In particular, few privately employed school bus drivers enjoy paid sick leave. Lack of sick time not only endangers the driver’s physical and economic well being, but it also affects the health and safety of student passengers. Far too often, drivers are forced to report to work while sick because they can’t afford to lose a day’s pay.
Typically the only authority figure aboard the bus, drivers have only a rear view mirror in which to view the students entrusted to their care, and, as a result, are not able to closely monitor student behavior. Further, school bus drivers currently receive minimal, if any, training as to what constitutes unacceptable behavior and appropriate discipline and are often not given any instructions for reporting incidents to school officials. There is a need for practical and on-going training for school bus drivers on procedures and protocols for defusing crises and responding to violent students.
- Providing training for school bus drivers on managing student behavior, safety and security awareness, and emergency preparedness and response; and
- Amending criminal statutes to treat physical attacks on school bus drivers, including attacks by students, gang members, and others, in the same manner as attacks on other school personnel; and
- Passage of national paid sick day legislation to ensure economic security for school bus operators