Giggles. Shouted conversations. The click-beep-whirr of smartphones. Even snores. The routine sounds of morning on a school bus don’t include gunfire — and every school bus driver hopes they never will be interrupted by that horrifying noise.
However, if that does happen in Indiana, many drivers are prepared to deal with it, thanks to training videos offered by the Indiana State Police (ISP).
Sgt. Chris Kath, ISP School Bus Safety Coordinator, says that several presentations at the 2013 National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) conference and a bus hijacking in Alabama in the same timeframe started him thinking about a need for active threat training specific to school bus drivers. Using student actors, a bus driver and a bus provided by Mooresville Consolidated Schools (which his children attend), Kath produced two training videos from a script written by Master Trooper John Pang that offers five different scenarios and potential ways for drivers to handle threats, such as jamming the vehicle’s brakes to throw a would-be attacker off balance.
“We’re not telling them that if this happens, you must do that. The idea is to get them thinking now so that if anything ever does happen, they’re one step ahead of the game. The worst thing they could do would be to have no plan in place and not know how to react,” says Kath, who has been asked to give a presentation at the 2014 National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services conference. “We think it’s phenomenal that we will be able to get this information out to all state directors.”
The videos are available to any school system or law enforcement agency in the country via free download from the ISP website; the state also offers a Safe Schools, Unarmed Response to an Active Shooter training program that incorporates the videos. Dr. Richard Hogue of the state’s Department of Education says that in the past 15 months, he has worked with ISP to offer 150 instructional sessions.
“We try to provide the educators with options using the FBI’s Run Hide Fight approach. We’re not asking them to die for their kids — which they will do — we’re asking them to live for their kids by exercising appropriate options and keeping those in their charge safe,” Hogue says. “The bus driver videos use the same theme. We have a PowerPoint presentation that focuses on the classroom setting, and the bus driver video just changes the environment. It allows us to provide options for bus drivers as well as for classroom teachers.
“As a longtime school principal, I believe there is no tougher job than being a bus driver. You’re responsible for the same number of children as if you were in a classroom, but you have your back to them and you have to pay attention to the road,” he adds.
The videos are also self-contained, so that school administrators, including transportation directors, can build their own presentations around them based on their district’s policies and procedures. Kath says he’s heard from jurisdictions in other states that are using the video, including New York, Missouri and Colorado as well as the police department in Windsor, Ontario (the Canadian agency is putting together a threat assessment to evaluate the safety of all its facilities): “We want to get that information out to as many schools and bus drivers as possible, to do anything we can to help prevent injuries or fatalities to students or bus drivers. We’ve already had quite a bit of traffic on it — it’s been interesting to see how many people have already been touched by it and have been able to take training thoughts and ideas from it.”