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Bus driver shortage is big concern

If parents and guardians aren’t concerned about their school district’s busing contractor having a shortage of drivers, they ought to be.

Drivers who transport children to and from classes and extracurricular activities are a vital component of every school system, as essential as teachers, administrators, cafeteria staff, aides, maintenance workers and janitorial employees.

Minus even one of those components, a school district is facing the proverbial “world of hurt.”

In a Mirror article last Monday, reporter Walt Frank provided an excellent account of the bus driver challenges many school districts — some in this region — are facing, and how the Pennsylvania School Bus Association is trying to address the problem through a statewide recruitment effort.

The PSBA campaign is based on raising public awareness regarding the availability of the driving opportunities and providing resources targeted at actual driver recruitment.

Frank’s article made the point that the PSBA is considered one of the strongest bus associations in the United States. Pennsylvania and its school systems are lucky to have such an asset working on their behalf.

Still, perhaps the PSBA campaign could be doing more to call attention to one possible — formidable — cause of the driver shortage about which some parents and guardians are reluctant to recognize, acknowledge and help resolve. That is some students’ problem behavior and lack of respect directed toward the adults who shoulder the responsibility for transporting them safely to and from their educational experience.

Parents and guardians are responsible for encouraging — indeed, demanding — that their children conduct themselves respectfully, responsibly and safely during the important part of the school day when they are on their way to or from classes or activities.

Anytime a driver is distracted because of a problem on the bus, the well-being and lives of students on the bus are somewhat less safe — as well as the driver himself or herself.

Frank’s article quoted Mort Snider of Port Matilda-based Beckwith Busing, which has been in business for 67 years.

“Dealing with kids is more difficult nowadays; it is a big hassle,” Snider said.

What he didn’t say, but probably should have, is that too many parents don’t show enough interest about the conduct of their child or children when those young people are being bused.

Later, if they are informed about their children’s inappropriate conduct, some parents “construct” a wall of defense around the premise that the driver is the person who is at fault, not the disruptive individual.

In the end, such defensive postures discourage many people from wanting to deal with such situations, and they turn their job-seeking efforts to other occupations.

Understandable but unfortunate — for school districts and families with school-age children who embrace the right mindset regarding school busing.

Driving a school bus is capable of providing a strong degree of personal satisfaction, even enjoyment. All considered, those dedicated individuals behind the wheel of school buses are not paid the compensation that they truly deserve for the important responsibilities that they shoulder.

It is reasonable to believe that, without the hassles to which Snider alluded, the current driver shortage might not exist.

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