School board should focus on busing issues

Published 9:40 am Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Less than a month into the new school year, school board officials across the state and the school bus drivers they oversee have been receiving a flurry of bad press.

In DeRidder two weeks ago, a 6-year-old boy was driven home from K.R. Hanchey Elementary by strangers instead of arriving on a school bus. About a week earlier the boy was on a bus that was involved in an accident on school grounds. Mike Fligg, the boy’s father, said officials failed to notify him in both cases.

Fligg said his son arrived home Aug. 15 more than an hour after his normal drop-off time and that the school failed to notify him of the accident, between a truck and the bus.

It’s nearly a certainty that there will be school bus problems during these first few days, perhaps the first couple of weeks, of the new school year.

To begin with, the workplace environment for the drivers surely must be hectic. Most people would have their hands full simply driving the bus safely and running the route accurately. We understand that.

But then we heard about this.

As a 7-year-old Clinton Elementary School student walked off a school bus Aug. 28, the bus driver deployed the vehicle’s flashing stop signs to halt drivers on the state highway. But a 67-year-old Baker man driving a Ford Explorer did not see the stop signs and ran into the girl as she crossed the highway, said Trooper First Class Jared Sandifer, a State Police spokesman.

The impact left the girl with several broken bones and put into focus a new state law passed in the recent legislative session aimed at preventing these kind of accidents.

The law, Act 654, sponsored by state Rep. Neil Abramson, R-New Orleans, and state Sen. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans, requires school districts to change where and how they load and unload students at bus stops.

According to the law, students must now be picked up or dropped off on a road shoulder, parking lot or any other off-road location the school system approves. But students cannot be let off or picked up at a location that requires them to cross a road or highway.

Bus drivers are also prohibited from loading or unloading students who are near their home while the bus sits in a travel lane, except when there is no shoulder and then the bus must be in the farthest right lane so the student does not have to cross traffic.

The new law went into effect on Aug. 1, but does not give a deadline for full compliance.

If the school board was in full compliance of the law, would the accident have happened?

We urge our own school board to look into it. In any case, we urge the school board to put bus service at the top of its list of problems to solve.

In the meantime, we urge everyone to be aware that the buses are back on the roads and to obey the laws pertaining to stopped buses and to give the drivers lots of space and every courtesy.(MGNonline)