School bus driver evaluations should include ride-alongs and safety assessments

Posted by on March 18, 2014

A Florida jury recently rendered a decision on a case in which I served as an expert witness. The incident involved one student attacking another student on a school bus.

I found it surprising during my case review that the school district did not require annual ride-alongs as part of bus drivers’ annual evaluations. It seems reasonable that if a driver is to be evaluated, his or her performance should be observed firsthand at least once during the school year.

Parent, student, and school administrator complaints about school bus drivers typically involve issues regarding student behavior on the bus, not how the driver actually drives the bus. Too often, drivers receive state-mandated training (and more) on how to physically drive the bus in a safe manner. But less often do they receive adequate training on how to manage behavior, violence, and/or other emergency situations on the bus.

A firsthand observation by a supervisor as part of a driver’s annual evaluation can help transportation managers assess each driver’s driving skills. It can also help assess the driver’s ability to manage student conduct, bus discipline, and other aspects of bus safety and emergency preparedness.

Are there other tools that can aid in driver evaluation?  Yes. Video is certainly one excellent tool. Feedback from school administrators is another tool. But there is no substitute for the visual observation obtained by actually riding the bus.

How can a bus driver be evaluated without the evaluator riding the bus at least once during the school year?  It is almost like doing a teacher evaluation without ever visiting the classroom.

The lack of a ride-along was something that I found hard to imagine. And in this particular court case, apparently so did the jury.

Chuck Hibbert

Consultant to National School Safety and Security Services

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