Daytona Beach, FL (June 30, 2014) – The American School Bus Council presented a School Bus Champion Award to Arkansas school bus driver Sheila Hart at the Opening Session of the 2014 Southeastern States Pupil Transportation Conference (SESPTC).
Ms. Hart was driving her normal elementary school route for Pulaski County Special School District in Arkansas on October 17, 2013 when a disturbed man under the influence of methamphetamines hijacked her bus with a knife. She focused on ensuring the safety of the 11 children on her bus, and convinced the man to relinquish the knife and peacefully surrender to law enforcement officials.
During the incident, the hijacker took control of the wheel of the bus, and Ms. Hart coached him through driving safely until he surrendered. Near the end of the hijacking, the assailant called his mother to tell her he had made a big mistake and would be going to prison. He pled guilty and was sentenced to 55 years in prison – 5 years for each of the 11 children on the bus. He will not be eligible for parole for at least 14 years. Thanks to Ms. Hart’s calm demeanor and dedication to her riders’ safety, nobody was injured in the incident.
Mike Simmons, the Immediate Past President of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDTPS) and Arkansas Director of Pupil Transportation presented the Award to Ms. Hart. He said, “Ms. Hart exemplifies the true heart of most school bus drivers. Her total concern throughout the entire ordeal was the safety of the children on that bus. She showed great poise and professionalism by keeping the hijacker calm and de-escalating the situation. This entire episode could have wound up ending in a tragic conclusion.”
She is the second driver to receive an ASBC School Bus Champion Award since the recognition program’s inception in 2013. Slain Alabama school bus driver Charles Poland, Jr. was posthumously honored at last year’s SESPTC conference. Past recipients are:
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- The State of Utah
- Slain bus driver Charles Poland, Jr.
- School bus contractor executive Dale Krapf
- Washington State’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn
- Mr. Dorn’s Chief of Staff, Ken Kanikeberg
- Tennessee Highway Patrol Lieutenant Ray Robinson
The Award recognizes exceptional support for and advancement of the school bus industry. All recipients have demonstrated leadership that has produced demonstrable positive outcomes for the communities they serve, as well as the school bus industry as a whole.
Award recipients stand out in their advocacy for pupil transportation and prove to be leaders in at least one of the following categories:
- Safety – For example, student movement tracking programs, student behavior monitoring programs (anti-bullying), fleet repair and maintenance, and staff training
- Access to Education – For example, expanding school bus service or maintaining existing service in the face of budgetary pressure to increase walking radii
- Environmental Benefits/Stewardship – For example, the pursuit and application of green technology, pollution reduction strategies, and anti-idling policies.
- Community Impact – For example, community-driven events and programs, relationship-building and partnership with local emergency response personnel
ASBC is a coalition of public and private transportation providers, school bus manufacturers and state officials responsible for pupil transportation. It promotes the safety, environmental, and equal access to education benefits of the iconic yellow school bus. The Council’s members include NAPT (National Association for Pupil Transportation), NASDPTS (National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services), NSTA (National School Transportation Association), Blue Bird Corp. of Fort Valley, Ga., IC Corporation of Lisle, Ill., and Thomas Built Buses of High Point, N.C.