School Bus Safety Tips

As kids head back to school, it’s a good time to give them a quick refresher on school bus safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulates school bus safety and notes that children are far safer riding on a school bus than they are in the family car. The following information is from the NHTSA.

Bus Safety

Students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car. That’s because school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road; they’re designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries; and in every State, stop-arm laws protect children from other motorists.

  • Different by Design:School buses are designed so that they’re highly visible and include safety features such as flashing red lights, cross-view mirrors and stop-sign arms. They also include protective seating, high crush standards and rollover protection features.
  • Protected by the Law:Laws protect students who are getting off and on a school bus by making it illegal for drivers to pass a school bus while dropping off or picking up passengers, regardless of the direction of approach.

Seat Belts on School Buses

Seat belts have been required on passenger cars since 1968; and 49 States and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requiring the use of seat belts in passenger cars and light trucks. There is no question that seat belts play an important role in keeping passengers safe in these vehicles. But school buses are different by design, including a different kind of safety restraint system that works extremely well.

Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than passenger cars and light trucks do. Because of these differences, bus passengers experience much less crash force than those in passenger cars, light trucks and vans.

NHTSA decided the best way to provide crash protection to passengers of large school buses is through a concept called “compartmentalization.” This requires that the interior of large buses protect children without them needing to buckle up. Through compartmentalization, children are protected from crashes by strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.

Small school buses (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) must be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions. Since the sizes and weights of small school buses are closer to those of passenger cars and trucks, seat belts in those vehicles are necessary to provide occupant protection.

Bus Stop Safety

The greatest risk to your child is not riding a bus, but approaching or leaving one. Before your child goes back to school or starts school for the first time, it’s important for you and your child to know traffic safety rules. Teach your child to follow these practices to make school bus transportation safer.

For Parents

Safety Starts at the Bus Stop:Your child should arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Visit the bus stop and show your child where to wait for the bus: at least three giant steps (six feet) away from the curb. Remind your child that the bus stop is not a place to run or play.

Get On and Off Safely:When the school bus arrives, your child should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, the door opens, and the driver says it’s okay before approaching the bus door. Your child should use the handrails to avoid falling.

Use Caution Around the Bus:Your child should never walk behind a school bus. If your child must cross the street in front of the bus, tell him/her to walk on a sidewalk or along the side of the street to a place at least five giant steps (10 feet) in front of the bus before crossing. Your child should also make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing to make sure the driver can see him/her. If your child drops something near the school bus, like a ball or book, the safest thing is for your child to tell the bus driver right away. Your child should not try to pick up the item, because the driver might not be able to see him/her.

For Drivers

Make school bus transportation safer for everyone by following these practices:

  • When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.
  • When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking of getting there safely.
  • Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in neighborhood.
  • Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops.
  • Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
  • Learn and obey the school bus laws in your State, as well as the “flashing signal light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions:
    • Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
    • Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.

Picture courtesy of Wkimedia Commonsunder Creative Commons license.

National PTA’s New Position Statement on Safe and Supportive Schools

As schools across the country are increasingly impacted by violence and natural disasters, National PTA’s board of directors adopted a new position statement on safe and supportive schools during its August board meeting. The statement calls for a multi-faceted approach to address school safety that involves all stakeholders, especially students, parents and families.

“School safety is a critical priority for all parents, families, educators, students and community members that cannot be taken for granted. Every child has a right to learn and grow in a safe and supportive environment,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “National PTA recognizes that school safety is a multi-faceted issue with no one clear solution for each community. We believe any effort to address school safety must involve all stakeholders who should consider a variety of factors, including the physical and psychological safety of students.”

As outlined in the position statement, National PTA promotes the establishment of and support for school safety policies and procedures that emphasize family engagement, adequate funding for student supports and services, and conditions that create and foster positive and welcoming school environments. The association also promotes the implementation of evidence-based policies and best practices articulated in A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools, which was written and has been endorsed by the nation’s leading education stakeholders and practitioners.

The position statement further states that National PTA believes the most effective day-to-day school climate is a gun-free campus—which includes not arming teachers and administrators—but defers to local, collaborative decision-making regarding the presence of law enforcement for school building security. If the decision is made to have a Student Resource Officer (SRO) or other security agency within a school building, the association believes there must be a clearly defined memorandum of understanding between the law enforcement agency and the school that articulates the role of the SRO.

“National PTA believes teachers and administrators are there to educate our children and should not be acting as armed security in classrooms,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, executive director of National PTA. “Families, students, educators, administrators, counselors, law enforcement, community leaders and elected officials must work together to ensure students feel safe and schools and communities have the resources and capacity to provide a positive and healthier environment for all students.”

Teaching Your Child How to Use 911

As parents, we’re constantly on the lookout for our children’s health and safety. But what if something should happen to you or happen when you are not around. Do your children know how and when to use 911? An article from Kids Health, available in both Englishand Spanish, walks you through the process.

The article covers four critical areas:

  • How to talk to your kids about 911 in an age-appropriate way.
  • When to call 911, including when notto call.
  • What to say when you call 911.
  • Additional safety tips.

The article also features an emergency contact sheetthat you can fill out with information your kids can use should they have to call 911 or that may help first responders (e.g., an emergency contact). This sheet can also come in handy for a babysitter as well. Be sure to read the full article, and then talk with your children to make sure they are prepared.

Photo © 2011 by Pranav Bhattunder Creative Commons license.

 

Survey of Highlights Needs of LGBTQ Youth

In 2016, PTA adopted a resolution in favor of recognizing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) individuals as a protected class, noting that LGBTQ youth are frequent targets of harassment and bullying and have higher rates of isolation, depression, and suicidal thoughts and attempts than the general student population. This month, the Human Rights Campaign and the University of Connecticut released its 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report.

The report is the largest survey of its kind ever, having surveyed over 12,000 LGBTQ teenagers ages 13 to 17 from across the nation. The survey found that these teenagers are experiencing not only high levels of stress, anxiety, and rejection, but also overwhelmingly feel unsafe in their own classrooms. The survey also clearly indicated the important role that supportive families and inclusive schools play in LGBTQ students’ success and well-being. Among the results are:

  • 77% of LGBTQ teenagers reported feeling depressed or down over the past week.
  • 95% of LGBTQ teenagers reported trouble sleeping at night.
  • More than 70% report feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week.
  • Over 50% of transgender youth said that they canneveruse the school restrooms that align with their gender identity.
  • Only 11% of LGBTQ teenagers of color said their racial or ethnic group was regarded positively in the US.
  • Only 26% of LGBTQ youth said that they always feel safe in their school classrooms, and only 5% say that all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ teenagers.
  • 67% report that they have heard family members make negative comments about LGBTQ people.

The full reportincludes a section covering what parents and family members, school administrators and teachers, mental health and medical professionals, and policy makers and advocacy leaders can do to help.