|Bus Driver Hero Has Students, Training to Thank This Holiday Season|
|Written by Ryan Gray|
|Tuesday, 24 November 2009 11:08|
Earlier this month at the National Association for Pupil Transportation annual conference, Dreana Trent received yet another accolade for saving a choking student’s life last December. But it’s the students she drives every day who saved her second career.
“My biggest reward was that this student breathed and is alive,” she told STN recently. “I didn’t care if I got any recognition. If he wouldn’t have lived, I know I probably would have quit right away. I would never have been able to drive a bus again.”
Trent, a part-time driver for Gwinnett County Public Schools outside Atlanta who began driving 5 years ago to supplement her Social Security payments, won the 2009 Blue Bird Heroism Award for performing CPR on one of her special education elementary school students after a piece of hard candy got stuck in the boy’s throat. Trent also drives special needs middle schoolers.
Despite strict district policy forbidding students to eat or drink on the school bus, sometimes a teacher will reward a student with candy for a job well done. Trent said she does all she can to identify students with food as they board her bus and confiscate it, turning it back over to the student when they later unload at their house.
“Unfortunately, you can’t watch everything that they do,” she said.
But in this case, it wasn’t until the boy, who was seated directly behind Trent, started choking and turning blue in the face that she realized what had happened.
“I saw his eyes and face in my mirror so I knew right away,” she added. “He usually jokes around, so at first so I thought he might be playing. But I looked at him a second time and knew he was choking.”
She immediately stopped the bus in the middle of traffic and began performing the Heimlich Maneuver to free the boy’s windpipe, but to no avail. She directed her assigned student helper, a third grade boy without any disabilities who was riding Trent’s bus because he and his sister recently had become homeless, to do as he was trained and call dispatch for help. Attendees at NAPT in Louisville, Ky., listened to the 911 call during an awards banquet on Nov. 1.
Trent eventually got the choking boy breathing again, but the incident proved why the district’s weekly training of students and drivers onboard all the school buses is so vital. All driver receive a check-of list of safety rules that must be re-enforced each month. For example, on Nov. 3, Gwinnett drivers simulated a front-door evacuation with their students.
“You have to tell everyone the bus rules, but some special education kids just won’t get it, bless their hearts,” she explained. “Ninety percent of the regular route kids understand what you’re talking about, whereas only five or six of the special education kids on the bus will know what to do.”
What to do means repeatedly training these children on which door to use in an evacuation, how far to move away from the bus once outside, remaining quiet as they exit, and leaving their bookbag behind.
On Nov. 10, Trent and her fellow drivers were required to review with their students the school bus danger zone and how to signal to the driver if they drop an item around bus. This training included explaining to the students the 10- to 12-foot radius around the bus that presents the most danger to students, regardless of the fact that special education transportation requirements are for door-side drop off.
“You have to explain to them as they’re getting off bus and train them anytime they’re off the bus that it’s all a danger zone,” Trent explained. “You have to let them know what to do if any papers or books are dropped.”
Last week, Nov. 17, the bus training was on proper procedures for railroad crossings, when Trent and other drivers need complete silence from students as they open the loading door, turn the radio off, turn off heating and air conditioning to ensure a train is not approaching before proceeding over the tracks. Then, today, Nov. 24, the bus driver had to review all school bus safety rules, which also include mandatory assigned seats, student behavior on the bus and use of passenger restraint systems.
As the adage says, perfect practice makes perfect, for which Trent is thankful considering what the alternative might have been.
“I’m still driving, still enjoying the kids. I get very attached to them,” she said. “After the incident, I’m monitoring the kids as they get on the bus more than ever.”
|Last Updated on Friday, 12 March 2010 16:47|