Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.
I want to make it clear that this article in no way is meant to blame any of the people involved in what appears, by all accounts, to have been a tragic accident when a Brooklyn school bus killed a 4-year-old boy in Boro Park on February 17. But as a father who knows the pain of burying his own children only too well, I believe that it is important to ask if there is any room for improvement in our school bus safety procedures.
From the brief discussions I have had with people about busing, there does seem to be some larger safety issues to address. Unlike most secular neighborhoods that are serviced by relatively few buses, our communities often have school buses from dozens of schools operating in the same short time frames along the same busy streets.
It is not hard to imagine the impatience of other drivers on their way to work getting stuck behind multiple buses making multiple stops on every block. This reality forces our buses to move quickly and not wait for students to arrive and be seated or exit safely.
In the last few days I have heard several parents describe regularly observing unsafe school bus practices, either in their neighborhood or during their drive to work. These include picking up children from the wrong side of a boulevard, individual school buses making multiple stops on the same block, buses leaving the bus stop area before children are seated and buses dropping off children onto snow banks.
School bus safety standards differ by state and locality, but there are a few common sense procedures we can implement that can improve school bus safety. Students should be waiting outside when their bus arrives (even when it is cold), standing in a well-lit, safe spot on the sidewalk at least six feet away from the street. The entire area, from the place the students stand and wait, all the way to the place where the school bus door will open should be cleared of snow and ice. Students should wait for the bus to come to a complete stop and open its door before moving toward the street and then walk in an orderly single file line, boarding carefully.
Buses should not leave the bus stop before all students are safely seated. It is better when school buses stop on the same side of the street as the children who are boarding and exiting. This is especially true for primary streets with traffic moving in both directions. Buses should never pick up or drop off children from the wrong side of a boulevard.
It would be difficult to implement these standards under our current school bus models. While I understand that implementing change often comes with unfortunate unintended consequences, the safety of our children must be our top priority. We must consider designating one safe bus-pickup and drop-off area per block to be used by all students from all schools. The stop must have adequate room so that buses can stop and students can safety board and be seated or exit directly to the sidewalk.
Parents should take turns monitoring the bus stop to ensure that all students and bus drivers adhere to the safety procedures and that the stop remains safe regardless of the weather conditions. We must consider combining bus routes between neighborhood schools to avoid school bus congestion. Fewer buses and fewer bus stops can allow more time for safe pick-up and drop-off procedures.
If you see a school bus that is not following safety procedures, don’t be shy. Call the bus company and report the bus driver. Make sure to note the school bus company name, the school bus number, the street on which you observed the infraction and the exact time. Keep a record of your report. If the same driver continues to engage in unsafe procedures after multiple complaints, call and report all of the incidents, including the dates and times of the violations to your local school district and the State Highway Safety Board.
It will take time and effort to enforce school bus safety standards. Busy parents will have to take turns monitoring and cleaning bus stops, students will need to be prepared earlier, walk down the block to their designated stop and wait outside in the cold, rain and snow. Before you ask if all this extra trouble is worth it, look at your children, give them a hug and ask yourself if there is anything in the world that is more valuable to you. The lives you save may be your own.
Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed., serves on the Executive Committee of JBAC, The Jewish Board of Advocates for Children http://jewishadvocates.org. He is also the founder of the largest Orthodox online networking group, the Frum Network on Linkedin. He welcomes comments suggestions and feedback at email@example.com.
About the Author: Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed is a freelance writer, public speaker and social media consultant. He is currently working on a book about his collegiate experience. He welcomes comments and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his website: http://chaimshapiro.com/
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This past summer was a powerful one for the Jewish people. I will always remember where I was on June 12th when I found out that Gilad, Eyal and Naftali were kidnapped. I will always remember the look on my sister’s face on June 30th when she told me that they were found. I will […]
Avromi often put other people’s interests before his own: he would not defend people whom he believed were guilty (even if they were willing to pay him a lot of money).
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My eyes skimmed an article on page 1A. I was flabbergasted. I read the title again. Could it be? It had good news for the Miami Jewish community.
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Each student received a brachah and a handshake.
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Just a few months ago, I was having a difficult time getting a refund for a missing product processed via the customer service call center at a major retailer. After spending hours on hold and having my request denied, I sent a Tweet to the company’s Twitter account.
We had suffered through an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. My wife had to go through labor and deliver our children to their deaths, and I was unable to save them or even give them a little warmth while they died.
Special Note: It is an unusual phenomenon that many bereaved parents share. We can almost see our age-adjusted children in our sukkah or running up to us during a family simcha. As quickly as they come, those visions seem to disappear as we go through the life cycle. They are hard moments made harder by the thoughts of not only what could have been, but what should have been.
I had to believe that things were going to be ok. They just had to be ok. We had gone through so much, had sacrificed so much and were doing everything the doctors told us to do. I remember speaking to a hesitant professor in my Ph.D. program about getting an incomplete in her class. The conversation stands out in my mind because, looking back, I can see how odd it must have seemed as I matter-of-factly told her I was too busy for coursework because my twins’ amniotic sack was bulging through my wife’s cervix.
On our first day in the antepartum unit, one of the nurses mentioned how critical every moment of pregnancy really was. “One minute in is worth two minutes out (in an incubator).” We weren’t really expecting a premature birth, but her comment put a fine point on the importance of the care my wife was receiving.
The best way to describe our emotions the morning of our major ultrasound was nervous excitement. We had survived a serious scare with a threatened miscarriage a few weeks prior. My wife was on bed rest at home, but we had no real reason to assume there would be any new problems.
It was only after we celebrated the great news that we were expecting twins that we saw the first sign of problems. First of all, my wife was losing, not gaining weight, even as the babies continued to grow normally. Soon after, routine blood work revealed that my wife was suffering from gestational diabetes.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/parenting-our-children/school-bus-safety/2010/03/03/
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