Seatbelts with shoulder straps are one way Sacramento City Unified tries to keep kids safe on its buses. But if a threat was approaching, their bus driver may be the first, best line of defense in a crisis.
A week ago, an Alabama bus driver lost his life trying to protect a child who was eventually abducted from his bus, causing lots of questions about what safety steps are most realistic.
FOX40 wanted to know what drivers are trained to do in Sacramento.
With 21 years on school routes in his rear view mirror, Sacramento City Unified bus driver Ramsey Odom sees his daily ride as a daily mission.
“I see them as my own kids. We carry precious cargo every single day. And pretty much their lives are in my hands every day,” said Odom.
That’s why the Alabama hostage situation that started at one 5-year-old’s school bus strikes at his heart.
“The first 15 -45 minutes of a hostage situation is going to be the most critical,” said Chuck Ernst, SCUSD director of distribution services, about what drivers are taught if an assailant approaches.
That’s why the first rule is to stay calm.
“Accept the situation for what it is. Try to be proactive but don’t try to be a hero,” said Ernst.
Any additional agitation on board the bus could make a bad situation tragically worse.
Drivers have two way-radios at their disposal to signal dispatch for help.
Aging panic buttons are on some buses, but the district is looking for a fleet-wide upgrade.
Besides radios and regulations, many wonder if a weapon should be in a bus driver’s arsenal.
So is that under consideration in the SCUSD?
“That’s not something we’ve talked about … Arming bus drivers is not something we’ve talked about at all,” said Ernst.
Ernst would like to have GPS on all buses so they could be immediately tracked if there was a crisis, but that’s an expense that’s beyond many districts right now.