School Bus Drivers Playing 2 Roles

OCTOBER 11, 2006 -- POSTED AT 10:00 P.M. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- Just how safe are our children on school buses? It's a question on the minds of many parents, with already 3 local school bus accidents in less than 2 days.

"Every school and every bus driver has an ultimate responsibility as far as transporting kids," says Radius Baker, the superintendent of the Valley View School District.

But that's not always an easy job. Not only do the school bus drivers have to drive safely, but they must watch over the children as well.

"I'm constantly having to look in this mirror to make sure they are behaving, and like I said watch the road too," says Terry Cook, a school bus driver for Valley View.

A dramatic example of school bus problems happened when a fight broke out on a school bus in New Mexico between 3 girls. This week alone, there have been 3 school bus accidents here in Region 8. One of which was caused when the driver was trying to deal with discipline problems. Cook says they try to follow a procedure if a problem arises.

"When I come to a safe area, I would pull over and get the bus stable and everything, then I would try to control it myself and if I could not, we have the radio that we can contact that we can contact the school at anytime," says Cook.

Some buses are capable of carrying up to 83 students and while carrying more kids might be more efficient, it also can cause more discipline problems.

"A teacher usually has about 20 to 25 kids, but here we've got anywhere from 60 to 80 kids that we're having to watch, plus watch the road, so yes I think every bus needs a monitor," says Cook.

Most schools in the area don't have monitors on each bus, leaving all the responsibility in the hands of the driver.

"We have some monitors on our buses, but most of our buses do not have monitors, so therefore the bus driver is a driver, plus he's the disciplinarian on the bus," says Superintendent Baker.

He says in the future, they hope to have monitors on each bus, but until they have the funding to do so, school bus drivers will continue to face the pressure.

There is a process in place for bus drivers to deal trouble makers. If they have a problem, they fill out a discipline form that is sent in at the end of the route. From there, the child is dealt with by the school administration.