A photo of a jam-packed school bus that forced students to crouch and sit in the aisle is going viral — and outraged parents say it’s an ongoing problem.
“They were wedged in there like sardines in a can,” Stafford County parent Jaime Hoben told Yahoo Lifestyle of the bus that transports her 16-year-old daughter to and from Brooke Point High School in Virginia.
On Monday, while crammed in the aisle toward the front of the bus, the teen snapped a photo of her surroundings and texted it to Hoben, who shared it with the private Facebook page Stafford Talk and called local news station Fox 5 who reported on the story.
According to Hoben, her daughter’s bus driver didn’t come to work that day, so another employee picked up his route. “Two school buses had already declined to take these kids because they were at capacity,” says Hoben. “The third bus agreed to drive them, after radioing the transportation department about the number of children and getting approval.”
After Hoben’s daughter arrived at school, her shorts were soaked with an unknown substance that spilled during the ride. “She had no idea what it was or who it came from,” the mom says, adding that potential for sexual assault is another concern.
“Buses have been overcrowded for years but the county won’t acknowledge it,” she says. “Drivers have sent me private messages, thanking me for talking about this issue.” Hoben also attributes the chaotic environment to misbehaving kids. “They can be verbally abusive — one female driver said she herself was disciplined when a kid threw a Pepsi container at her head.”
Hoben says the school has not communicated directly with parents about the issue; however, a representative of Stafford County Public Schools sent a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle that read: “Stafford County Public Schools is aware that some of the buses are crowded due to a shortage of drivers and absences. Administrators are working to resolve this matter. Providing students with efficient transportation is one of the top priorities for SCPS.”
Big yellow buses are generally safer than cars — data compiled by the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration shows that between 2007 and 2016, there were 320,874 fatal traffic crashes and only 4 percent were related to school transportation.
However, because school buses aren’t always equipped with seat belts (state laws vary), kids aren’t necessarily better off in a crash, says Janette Fennell, president of the safety organization, KidsAndCars. “There’s a theory called ‘compartmentalization’ that states kids are contained within the confines of their bus seats, which are bolted to the floor, but that’s only generally true if the bus is hit by behind,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
On Hoben’s daughter’s bus, overcrowding poses a danger. “In a crash, kids who are crammed in the aisle could get seriously injured or injure other passengers due to the fact that they’re not compartmentalized,” says Fennell. “Their bodies will jolt forward.”
Plus, packed buses have limited evacuation time in the event of a fire. “Either the children in the aisle would escape quicker than those in their seats or get injured by kids trying to get out,” she says.
Hoben is determined to solve the issue of overcrowded buses in her county. “I’ll be attending school board meetings,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We’ll rattle cages until they listen.”
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