Grand jury delivers report on particular schooling buses
After examining the challenges faced by bus drivers carrying students with special needs, a Ventura district grand jury made recommendations to the district education bureau on ways to improve safety for both students and drivers.
The “extremely demanding” requirements of the job could potentially prevent bus drivers from safely transporting special school students, the grand jury said in their final report. On an average school day, more than 900 such students get on one of the 74 specially equipped buses in the district.
“If only one person is responsible for both tasks – looking ahead to drive and monitor the bus, and then reacting to the behavior of students on the bus – an unsafe and dangerous situation could arise,” the report said. “Concern for student safety prompted the grand jury to conduct an investigation into traffic programs, policies and procedures that serve a small subgroup of the county’s special school youth.”
The grand jury, a civil law investigative body made up of 19 volunteers, found that among the special school children, especially students with autism, emotional disorders and combined hearing and vision loss would benefit from increased surveillance on school buses.
Regarding students with autism, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that “bus attendants are essential to keep this population safe,” yet they are uncommon on the Office of Education’s special school buses.
According to the report of the grand jury, around 5% of the special school children in the district receive personal care while traveling on the district’s school buses. If specified on an individual lesson plan, an adult transportation assistant will be assigned to a student to supervise their journeys to and from campus. The Office for Education has around 50 such helpers.
VCOE has a part-time bus attendant, an adult, who is tasked with overseeing the behavior of all students on a given bus due to past disciplinary issues. Driving aids and bus attendants are employees of the school district.
In their report, the grand jury recommended that the Education Department put in place a process to determine when bus attendants are needed and how they can be requested. It also called on the district to formulate procedures that would ensure increased monitoring of school buses for special schools.
“We appreciate the grand jury’s interest in this matter and are always open to finding ways to improve student safety,” said César Morales, Ventura District Headmaster. “We are carefully reviewing the Grand Jury’s recommendations and will issue a formal statement on the results in July.”