The Miami-Dade County School Board voted unanimously to add texting to a district-wide cell phone and mobile device ban.
“This is not singling out school bus drivers but anyone driving a school board-owned vehicle, excluding police or in an emergency,” commented Dr. Larry Feldman, a Miami-Dade board member who pushed for the text ban. “I’ve never seen a bus driver do it, and this isn’t a punishment or an indictment at all. But watching people driving, including my own colleagues and employees, we’re all doing it. When you’re driving a bus of kids, it can’t even be a possibility.”
Effective immediately, Miami-Dade is one of few districts in the state that has proactively tackled the texting issue amid a U.S. Department of Transportation directive issued in September to address distracted driving nationwide and to ban all school bus drivers fro texting or using cell phones, according to Charlie Hood, the state’s school transportation director at the Florida Department of Education. Brevard County Public Schools east of Orlando near Cape Canaveral passed its own text ban in October.
The 9-0 Miami-Dade school board vote on Nov. 11 in favor of the ban not only affects the approximately 1,500 district school bus drivers but also other school employees who drive maintenance vehicles, about 3,500 of which are also operated by the transportation department. Then there’s food service trucks and school vehicles driven by teachers, supervisors and even the superintendent, added Feldman.
Meanwhile, Hood, who is also the president of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, said the Florida DOE transportation division is currently working with the Florida Association for Pupil Transportation to expand existing state administrative code to ban texting. Rule 6A-3.0171, implemented in 2006, currently only school bus driver's from talking on cell phones.
Hood added that House Bill 221 was introduced on Nov. 1 that would in part allow the State Board of Education to also begin regulating school bus drivers who transport students to non-public schools. Currently, the state can only require public schools to adopt regulations.