A Brand Called Broward County Public Schools
Is safety first at Broward County Public Schools or do we have to wait for bad things to happen to actually take the right actions?
Does this scenario represent your idea of safety first?
A School Bus, full of elementary grade students, from Pre-K to 5th Grade, on the highway, with a faulty AC at +90 degrees Fahrenheit, wearing no seatbelts? Ask any child what their two favorite moments at school are and they’ll tell you without a doubt: “Recess and riding the School Bus” unfortunately a less than safe bus ride home on Friday, September 7th would be an event some will never forget.
So what happened? Safety Neglected.
1.) For 45 minutes, the bus driver for Everglades Elementary Bus A goes on the freeway with dozens of kids crying and screaming.
2.) The driver never communicates to children to calm them.
3.) The driver never calls the Transportation Department.
4.) Everglades Elementary had no clue of what was going on until parents called in to report.
5.) BSO was going on until parents called in to report.
6.) At what point and under which circumstances does the BSO get involved?
All the kids knew is that they were on a highway, some started calling their parents and at the bus stop you could hear the parents angst and frustration yelling: Where?!?!? Ikea!?!! Markham Paaaark!!!?!!! Flamingo Gardens?!?!? One of the children relayed a message to her Mom from my son saying: “Please tell my Dad I’m scared” yes he was crying and so were others.
Safety should always be first, we’ve all witnessed the worst case scenarios regarding school safety in the recent past, but it’s always after the facts that significant actions are taken. What is the emergency protocol that The Broward School District has in place for a lost bus, accident or even hijacking? Do we have a plan for this? Or should we wait for one to occur till we actually put safety first? I mean with all the safety we have onsite today, kids hop on the bus and we hope for the best?
“Errare Humanum Est” - “Humans make mistakes” - By the time the bus arrived it was 45 minutes late, the BSO was at the bus stop and when the Officer asked the Driver what had happened the answer was “took a wrong turn, children were misbehaving, got distracted”. Seems the bus driver got lost, the bus was on Royal Palm Boulevard, should've made a right turn, that is South, toward Weston Road, but had missed the turn and driven East, onto the highway, I-75 Exit, then onto I-75 North, 595 East, so on and so forth but somehow had passed Flamingo Gardens, IKEA and finally Markham Park, finally finding the way onto Bonaventure Blvd. back to Everglades Elementary. There is one unforgettable moment when the bus arrives at The Ridges entrance and the children scream with joy, must have been quite a relief, we’re finally home.
Thank God it was not a red light on the busiest intersection in town, right? You would know about the lost bus incident by now and I would be writing in a totally different tone.
This is more of a wake-up call than anything, a couple of questions still remain: what is the protocol for “human error” like getting lost, making a wrong turn, what is the protocol for accidents, detours? What is the Driver instructed, trained to do? Common, there must be some sort of step by step policy or process to follow right? If lost at what point does the bus driver communicate with the Transportation Department? If it weren't for the children calling their parents we would have no idea of what was going on. I’m no child transportation expert but I can think of four logical steps a driver should follow when challenged by any of the possible scenarios:
1.) Inform the Broward County Student Transportation & Fleet Services Department that you had to take a detour.
2.) Inform the children, keep them calm.
3.) Transportation Department informs the school.
4.) School informs parents.
Together with 22 very concerned parents we signed & sent a letter to Everglades Elementary School reporting the incident, asking three simple questions:
1.) Please let us know what happened?
2.) Please let us know what are the plans for this to never happen again?
3.) Please fix the AC…..
I received a call from Principal Tillinger informing me he was on the case and should get things resolved by end of this week. Another parent took the letter to the County Schools Transportation Department, they received it and will get back to us.
The aftermath: some children have reported being scared of getting on the bus and getting lost again, nightmares, parents distrusting the system and driving their kids to school. What is hard to believe or maybe we should get used to it is the fact that we’re not getting any “formal response” to a “formal incident report”, which somehow highlights “0” accountability for what happened and what's worse how to avoid what happened?
If you are or know anyone in the press, school board, elected official, politician, please reach out to me, this incident is an early wake up call, things could have resulted so differently, there's a learning in every mishap, our quest to get things right has just begun, we should never let a single child be placed in harm's way by planning ahead, we’re Americans, we can do better, we must do better, we will do better.