National Association for Pupil Transportation President Alexandra Robinson said the massacre of 20 school children and six administrators and teachers last month at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., should alert student transporters that a similar attack on a school bus cannot be ruled out.
"The thought of someone attacking a school bus full of children has heretofore been so horrific that it was almost inconceivable," Robinson wrote to NAPT members. "Now, the thought is indelible."
She added that every student transporter nationwide — including school bus drivers, attendants/monitors/aides, dispatchers, trainers, inspectors, technicians and administrators — "has a heavy heart caused by shared grief and outrage."
Following is the full text of her message:
There are very few national events, good or bad, that don't affect the school bus industry, at least tangentially. The horrific massacre that happened last December at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT is a case in point.
Safety and security are paramount in the school bus industry and as NAPT members you have become acutely aware of the potential threat to the school bus and the children we transport as a target. The thought of someone attacking a school bus full of children has heretofore been so horrific that it was almost inconceivable – until someone shot and killed 20 defenseless children in Newtown. Now, the thought is indelible.
As a community of like-minded individuals who have dedicated themselves to keeping children safe and secure on their way to and home from school, America's school transportation industry has been deeply affected by this situation. Across the nation, every school bus driver, attendant/monitor/aide, dispatcher, trainer, inspector, technician and administrator has a heavy heart caused by shared grief and outrage.
When classes resumed in Newtown in early January, students went to a nearby former junior high school where school officials teamed up with workers, many of them volunteers, to try to make the new surroundings as familiar as possible. They brought desks, pictures, backpacks and many other things from the old school to the new one. They also encouraged parents to have their children ride the school bus.
All was not familiar, however, as police officers greeted students at each bus, and stood near every entrance, checking the identification of every adult who drove up to the school.
We do not know yet if this will be the norm, nor do we know what other policies and procedures are being enacted. But we should assume that every option is being considered as this community and others around the nation struggle to craft solutions that address the security of children in school. With that in mind, the NAPT Board believes December 14, 2012 is a day from which we must move forward.
NAPT has a reputation for being proactive, especially when it comes to safety and security in school transportation; we have offered education and training on school bus safety and security issues at our annual conference every year since 1999. In the wake of 9/11/01, we worked with the US Department of Homeland Security to create School Transportation Security Awareness training. Most recently, we partnered with the US Education Department's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools and the Safe and Supportive Schools Technical Assistance Center to develop training called Creating a Safe and Respectful Environment on Our Nation's School Buses.
We have much to contribute to the conversation that has emerged since the incident at Newtown. We intend now to give voice to your thoughts and concerns in order to continue to address issues and best practices in school bus security. We are therefore formulating a plan to provide you with relevant resources and education, particularly this October in Grand Rapids, MI.
If you are interested in becoming involved in this effort alongside others who share the sincere desire to help everyone in school transportation deal with these challenges effectively, please visit www.napt.org/safetyandsecurity.
Thank you for supporting and helping us, thank you for the work you do daily and, thank you for making our country an even better and safer place for children.
Alexandra H. Robinson, M.Ed., CDPT