School Buses on Terror Alert

Itís a sign of the times Ė protection against terrorism has reached down to even the youngest members of our population.

Over the summer, the National School Transportation Association announced a program called School Bus Watch, which is designed to train school-bus drivers to recognize specific hazards or unusual activities that may relate to the security of the buses. Bus companies and school district transportation officials have been working ever since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to prepare for possible scenarios in which terrorists may target school buses. Until now, any training efforts have varied by school district.

School Bus Watch is the first attempt to standardize a national curriculum for school-bus anti-terrorism training; the plan is to train all 600,000 drivers across the country. The program provides 90-minute school-bus workshops, including all training materials, free of charge to any school district that wants them. Whether itís being alert to a backpack left on the backseat, checking the pedals to make sure thereís been no tampering, or examining the bus before starting it up, bus drivers will learn to be vigilant.

Setting the standard for the country is the state of Texas, where more than 2,000 drivers and managers have already gone through this training. Texas school officials started the training in earnest in October 2004, after terrorists took over a school in Beslan, Russia, and killed more than 300 people.

ďEven though none of the news is indicating that a school transport fleet is a particular target, I donít think you can underestimate the importance of taking reasonable precautions,Ē says Bonnie Russell, Houston Independent School Districtís executive general manager of transportation.

Read more: Teach Your Kids†about School Bus Safety