Editorials

Kids aren’t cargo. They deserve more than a hot bus.

Sheree Abbott snapped this photo last year of her son getting off a hot school bus. The driver of the Hancock Middle School bus does not allow students to open their windows, Abbott said, as shown in the photo. The driver also has a fan near her seat.
Sheree Abbott snapped this photo last year of her son getting off a hot school bus. The driver of the Hancock Middle School bus does not allow students to open their windows, Abbott said, as shown in the photo. The driver also has a fan near her seat.

They are not cargo. They are not passengers. They are our children.

And if the buses they ride to and from school are too hot, that’s a problem.

We don’t know the temperatures inside the Hancock County School District buses. Some of the children say that even with air conditioning, even if the buses aren’t too hot, the lack of circulation is stifling.

The appropriate response to the children should have been to find out just how hot the buses are. School officials should have found out whether the buses are merely uncomfortable or downright dangerous.

But that’s not the response that Hancock County Middle School students got.

Instead, they got Director of Transportation Mike Ladner on the bus yelling at them, threatening to put them on an even hotter bus.

We know Ladner has a tough job just keeping drivers behind the wheel and the buses running on time. But that’s no excuse for the kind of outburst we saw on the video. Heat can be dangerous. Ladner should have been calmly explaining that he was doing everything he could to ensure the students’ safety. Instead, he flew off the handle.

No wonder the parents of those children are upset.

They say on at least one bus, the air conditioning is overwhelmed and doesn’t adequately cool the back of the bus. They say the problem isn’t so much the heat but the lack of circulation. They want the children to be able to open windows in the back of the bus to allow the air to flow through that part of the bus.

But, they say, when the children put the windows down, the driver pulls over and refuses to drive until the windows are back up. Yet, the driver has her window open and a fan on.

Now, after the Sun Herald ran a story on that particular bus and driver, we learn the parents complained about the bus last year.

That was after Hancock County School Superintendent Alan Dedeaux says he’s trying to work out the problem. We have to wonder why it hasn’t been resolved if he has known about it for years.

A bus that’s too hot is dangerous for the drivers and the students. Drivers have enough to deal with, given the traffic and the thought of being responsible for dozens of young people. They don’t need the added stress of heat, either.

This isn’t the first hot summer in Mississippi. We would expect school officials to have a better idea how to handle children, whether overheated, hot or pulling the bus driver’s leg. But standing in front of a bus full of middle school children and losing your cool helps no one.

Those who make the decisions in Hancock County School District should keep in the front of their minds these lines from the state’s Pupil Transportation Handbook:

“School administrators and school bus drivers must do everything possible to ensure safe operation of the school buses. Good attitudes, skills and judgment are necessary for the safety and welfare of the children.”

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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