Mobile, AL (July 8, 2013) – The American School Bus Council (ASBC) recognized the heroism of Charles A. Poland Jr., by naming him a School Bus Champion during a ceremony at the Southeastern States Pupil Transportation Conference (SESPTC) July 8th in Mobile, Alabama.
Mr. Poland was tragically murdered on January 29 by Jimmy Lee Dykes, a deranged gunman who barged onto the bus Mr. Poland was driving and demanded two children as hostages. Poland blocked the gunman’s way while nearly all of his passengers escaped through the rear of the bus. After a lengthy stand-off, the Dykes shot and killed Poland, and then proceeded to abduct a five year old boy named Ethan and retreat to an underground bunker. Days later, on February 3rd, the FBI stormed the bunker, killing Dykes and saving Ethan’s life.
Mr. Poland was widely recognized as the fabric of his community in Dale County, Alabama. He was remembered as a grandfather, a veteran, a hard-working member of the community, and a God-fearing man. At 66 years old, he had only been a full-time bus driver for four years, but took immense pride in his responsibility to shepherd his kids to and from school every day as if it was his life’s calling.
Ken Hedgecock of Thomas Built Buses and ASBC presented the ASBC School Bus Champion Award to Dale County Schools Superintendent Donny Bynum, who accepted the honor on behalf of Mr. Poland’s family. Mr. Hedgecock said that Mr. Poland “displayed bravery, honor, and conviction that most of us can’t even imagine. He faced evil and gave his life to save the lives of more than 20 kids who could have become victims themselves.”
Superintendent Bynum said that “not a day goes by that I don’t think about Mr. Poland and what he did. He is the definition of a hero.”
Mr. Poland is the third recipient of the School Bus Champion Award, which recognizes individuals or organizations that display exemplary leadership in at least one of the following categories: safety, access to education, environmental benefits / stewardship, and community impact. The Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Utah received the first two awards on April 25th, in recognition of their successes in greening school bus fleets. The School Bus Champion Award itself is a bronze-colored hand-cast metal school bus mounted on a walnut base that is inscribed to recognize the honoree(s).
ASBC is a coalition of public and private transportation providers, school bus manufacturers and state officials responsible for pupil transportation. It publicizes the safety, environmental, and 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.