Tought Leader

Bus Attendants & Media Headlines: A Wake-Up Call


espite the broad attention that media headlines have conveyed in recent years regarding the unacceptable behavior of a

number of school bus attendants assigned with the responsibility for oversight of children with disabilities, little has been written about causation, prevention and remediation. Numerous disturbing events have had a substantial lasting impact on children with disabilities, families and school districts across our nation. Unequivocally, we must better understand what action needs to be taken, sooner than later, to bring about positive changes, to eliminate inappropriate school bus attendant actions. Tese concerns are not isolated, but

too frequently occur. My knowledge and information has been gleaned from parents, media and my role as an expert witness for over three decades. In recent years, I have been astounded by what I have reviewed in school bus video.

After a substantial period of time, I

have decided not to remain as a silent onlooker, without attempting to initiate a positive effort to correct what has been negatively impacting the well-being of innocent children with disabilities. I have never believed that school bus attendants are intentionally harming children. I have observed them for too long being uninformed as well as under-educated. Wikipedia states that a “bus attendant is someone who assumes responsibility for the safety of children on a school bus.” Te question being, are we doing right by these bus attendants, based on their assigned

role? Clearly, additional education and intervention is required. Recently, I began to more closely examine the school bus infrastructure with respect to bus attendants and those factors that contribute to a problem that deserves attention. I asked myself, what in the infrastructure is an enabler of the problem, as well as a barrier, in order to bring about change? I have been committed to searching for an explanation, rather than placing blame. For me, the picture is not entirely clear and requires looking at what is essential to bring about change. Te following 10 recommendations, serve only as a starting point to bring about positive systemic change. Information and data must be obtained for each of the fifty states to get started. We need to get on board now!

• What are the qualifications for serving as a school bus attendant?

• How many initial hours of training are required to serve as a school bus attendant for children with disabilities?

• What are the annual training hours and content that are required to serve as a school bus attendant?

• What training is required to utilize manufacturer-specific equipment?

• What are the eligibility and selection criteria for school bus attendants?

• What are the specific job responsibilities for a school bus attendant, and how do they relate to the disabilities of the children, for whom they are responsible?

• What training does a school bus attendant and driver receive, in order to function as a team on a daily basis and in

a time of emergency?

• How often are school bus attendants evaluated on and off the school bus?

• What are the consequences for inappropriate school bus attendant behavior?

• Is the school bus attendant salary commensurate with their daily responsibilities?

In no way is the above list to be considered exhaustive of the issues requiring attention. Te questions above serve as a beginning point to better understand a mix of contributing factors that are necessary to influence positive change. One thing is for sure, the school bus

industry is not doing right by placing school bus attendants in a post without the knowledge and training required to perform a challenging position. We must change failures to success. I have met many bus attendants who are committed to doing the right thing, but have never been given the skills and education that are required to do what is crucial for children who have complex special needs. In summary, we need to better understand what we are asking bus attendants to do, in order to provide a safe ride. When all is said and done, let’s not forget the tens of thousands of well-serving bus attendants who do an exemplary job every day. Tey deserve to be recognized and acknowledged for their superb contributions. Te time is right to give everyone a chance to perform their job satisfactorily. 

Dr. Linda F. Bluth is a consultant for the Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services and is a past-president of the National Association for Pupil Transportation as well as chairperson emeritus for the NAPT Special Needs Advisory Committee. She is also a tenured faculty member of the annual Transporting Students with Disabilities and Special Needs National Conference (

60 School Transportation News • OCTOBER 2018

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