A recent survey of parents commissioned by the American School Bus Council found that six in 10 parents are concerned about having their children ride on yellow school buses. Parents cite safety issues, ranging from accidents and misbehaving children to unsafe drivers and a lack of information, as primary concerns.
Interestingly, the vast majority of parents, six in 10, consider the yellow school bus to be an important part of the education system, and want to be informed about safety features and procedures, driver background and qualifications, and standards governing the school bus industry.
That's where you come in!
The American School Bus Council, representing a unified voice of the school transportation industry, including the public sector, the private sector and the manufacturing segment, has provided the following best practices in the form of an Educators' Toolkit.
As you are challenged to communicate critical information about school transportation to parents, district officials and other stakeholders, know that you are not alone. The American School Bus Council is a resource for the 16,000 school districtsresponsible for 475,000 yellow school buses that transport 25 million children to and from school each day. Like you and your district, the Council is committed to providing safe, effective, efficient and healthy transportation for our nation's schoolchildren.
The American School Bus Council has initiated a three-year public education effort to communicate to parents and legislators what educators and authorities such as the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Transportation already know: School buses are the safest form of transportation for getting children to and from school.
We hope that you will incorporate these best practices shared by other school districts, state pupil transportation directors, school bus operators and manufacturers into your yearly operating procedures. Also, feel free to share your tips for communicating about school transportation with the American School Bus Council by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO WHAT WHEN WHERE
RECOMMENDATIONS WHEN COMMUNICATING ABOUT
- Parents overwhelmingly want information about their child's school bus driver. Ask your school's transportation director to prepare a short biography on each bus driver containing appropriate qualifications, skills training and safety record information. These biographies should be kept on file; updated each year; and mailed, e-mailed or handed to parents during "back-to-school" nights or bus-specific events.
- All bus drivers should wear a name tag or have their name clearly displayed for parents and children to "get to know" their bus driver. A name tag template that can be customized and printed is available in the Educator's Toolkit.
- Community allies such as police, fire and ambulance personnel in addition to school bus drivers; operators; and school, district and state pupil transportation directors can be powerful influencers in communicating basic safety information about school transportation. Consider inviting them to participate as speakers at informational events, or ask them to distribute safety materials door to door or within the community.
Facts to learn and share:
- The National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Department of Transportation and other authorities agree that school buses are the safest form of transportation for getting children to and from school.
- Some 475,000 school buses carry 25 million children more than half of America's schoolchildren each day, rarely with any serious accident.
- Safety features including the color and size of school buses, height, reinforced sides, flashing red lights, cross view mirrors, and crossing and stop sign arms ensure children are protected and secure on and off the bus.
- School bus drivers are highly trained professionals who have your child's safety in mind. They receive specialized training in student behavior management, loading and unloading, security and emergency medical procedures.
- Drivers participate in pre-employment and randomdrug/alcohol testing, as well as frequent driving record checks, and submit to background checks and periodicmedical exams to keep their Commercial Driver's License (CDL) with a School Bus Endorsement.
- The school bus industry operates by a set of safety, security, health and driver qualification guidelines that meet, and in some cases exceed, federal and state laws, and ensure that school buses are the safest mode of transportation for our nation's schoolchildren.
School Bus Safety Tips
- Be alert to traffic. Check both ways for cars before stepping off the bus.
- Make eye contact with the bus driver, and wait for the bus driver's signal before crossing the street.
- Walk in front of the bus; never walk behind the bus to cross the street.
- While waiting for the bus, stay in a safe place away from the street.
- Before leaving the sidewalk, look for the flashing red lights.
- Never go near or under the bus to retrieve something you've dropped.
- Have your child ride the school bus to and from school instead of driving or riding with teenage passengers.
- Review the safety tips with your child regularly.
- Get to know the parents of other riders. You will learn about the other children who are riding along with your child.
- Team with other parents to get involved and monitor bus stops and bus routes. Voice concerns immediately to your school district.
- Attend "back to school" nights and tour your child's school bus.
- Get to know your school's transportation coordinator and your child's bus driver. He or she is a trained professional who sees your child every day.
- Keep phone numbers handy in case the bus is delayed or in the event of an emergency.
Do's and Don'ts When Communicating with Parents:
- Leverage key strengths of school bus transportation, such as aspects of convenience for parents.
- Focus on safety to mitigate concern, using concrete proof and support to convince doubtful parents.
- Use straightforward language and a positive tone.
- Include specific examples or details parents can visualize, where appropriate these tend to be more believable.
- Cite credible third-party sources.
- Make arguments that parents consider untenable or unrealistic (for example, that riding in their car is not as safe as riding in a school bus).
- Avoid the seat belt issue parents expect this to be addressed.
- Leave room for ambiguities.
Consider communicating with students, parents and other stakeholders about school transportation at regular times during the year.
- Regular monthly mail or e-mail newsletter
- Back-to-school: August/September
- Daylight-saving time: October
- Valentine's Day/Love The Bus: February
- Winter break: December
- Spring break: March/April
When asked in the American School Bus Council's survey how they most like to receive routine information about school bus transportation from school, more than half of the parents indicated they prefer to be informed via regular mail or e-mail. Less popular methods included letters/flyers sent home with the child, school's Web site, information sessions at school and phone calls.
- Include industry guidelines on pupil transportation, safety tips, and biographies about bus driver qualifications, skills training and safety record information in "back-to-school" or "welcome" packets. Mail or e-mail the information to parents.
- Hold drills to review safety information with students during the first day of school, then again before daylight-saving time, on Valentine's Day, and the first day following winter and spring break (as a refresher following vacation).
- Hold specific events on school transportation for parents and encourage parents to "get to know" their school and district pupil transportation director, child's bus driver and bus monitor (if available). Invite parents to hear brief remarks from a school or community official on school bus safety features, followed by a tour of district buses so parents can acquaint themselves with the modern school bus.
Note: Internet survey conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, December 7-13, 2006. Included 1,000 parents of children ages 5-18 living at home. Survey excluded parents whose children receive special transportation to and from school due to a disability. Margin of error at 95% confidence level: 3.1%.