Friday, July 29, 2011

How can you "miss" a child?

One of the questions I find myself asking all the time is "How on earth can you miss a child?" I read articles like this one where the bus driver is arrested for leaving a student unattended on the bus for a period of time. Usually, its a ridiculous amount of time like 4 to 6 hours where the child will go unnoticed. Yes children sleep on the bus, and it can be difficult to see a child especially when they are laying down in the seat fast asleep.

Every bus driver is supposed to make a cursory walk through of their bus checking the seats for any sleeping children. I usually have a 5th grader or teenager at the last school I drop off check the bus for "sleepers" morning and evening. Even with that, if I am not sure and positive that I dropped every child, I still make a walk through of the bus to ensure no child is left behind. It can be very easy to overlook a child that may be sleeping on the floor underneath the seats, but it does not happen often enough.

My biggest gripe is reading stories of SPECIAL EDUCATION drivers leaving their special needs students on the bus. Now most special education buses have a pair of people on the bus, one to drive, and one to manage the children on board. What I don't understand is how did TWO sets of eyes miss these children that are apparently "sleeping." All too often, drivers are in a hurry to vacate the buses, especially on hot days with no air conditioning on the bus.

There are safety measures in place, including a child check alarm (in place on newer buses) that will sound if the driver does not go to the back of the bus to press a little silver button on the back wall and tries to open the front doors. In newer buses, the child check alarm comes on automatically after 10 minutes of bus running time, and gives a 10 to 15 minute buffer time when the bus is turned off for the driver to go back and press the button. Some child check alarm systems require the door to be closed before the alarm can be de-activated. Others, it doesn't matter the position of the door. Often if I leave the door closed, walk to the back, press the button, and open the door when I get back to the front, the alarm never sounds at all, but I've then made my cursory walk of the interior of the bus searching for any children that may be sleeping.

I also have a solution for sleeping children. Many drivers place their most chronic "sleepers" in the first few seats of the bus. That way, its easy to see who got on and who did not, plus its easier to keep track of those who sleep. If parents are worried that their child did not make it to school, I encourage parents to touch base with their child's teacher to express their concerns in the care of their children so that they can establish a system to follow if their child does not arrive at school after riding the bus.

After a long hard day of learning, many children (especially younger ones) are prone to falling asleep in the afternoon. If we show up at your designated bus stop and your child does not get off, please feel free to stay calm while you contact the school and bus shop. It may be that junior fell asleep and the driver simply missed him. If you call us, please give us time to stop the bus, park it out of the way of danger, and allow us time to check for your child. We have 60 other children on the bus besides yours, and we try to do our best to ensure that all the children arrive to and from school safely.

Checking the Bus,

The Bus Driver


ChiTown Girl said...

I had no idea that some buses have these alarms. Now I'm really dumbfounded as to how children could be left on the bus. Thanks for the insight. AND, thanks for being one of the awesome ones!

Ice Queen said...

The alarms are news to me as well. That's a great idea. Glad to hear you're on top of your game.