On most of the buses across our area, the person behind the wheel is expected to be keeping his or her eyes on the road, as well as the up to 60 children behind the driver.

If the New York State United Teachers has its way, regular school buses carrying elementary students would need to have another adult on board.

The union that represents public school educators wants an attendant to help kids board and get off the vehicles safely.

Citing guidance from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the legislation proposed by Sen. Timothy Kennedy, D-Buffalo, states that children face the greatest risk “when they approach the bus and when they exit the bus.”

That was certainly the case last month, when a Norwich bus driver prevented an older student from stepping off the bus as a car zoomed by on the right.

The driver, Samantha Call, saw the car coming and grabbed the student’s shirt to prevent him from leaving the bus.

Making getting on and off the bus safer would certainly be a huge benefit of this legislation. There would be an added benefit of having another set of eyes on the kids.

The bus driver’s main job has to be safely driving the bus. Trying to that while keeping kids from misbehaving is an extremely difficult, if not impossible, task in some cases.

In an ideal world, all children would sit quietly on the bus, not causing problems. But it’s not an ideal world, and quiet rides are the exception rather than the norm. 

Usually, problems on the bus are just kids being kids — jumping around, being loud or being silly.

Othertimes, students could be bullying, harming other kids or doing inappropriate, if not illegal, things.

Bus drivers can’t safely keep their eyes on the road and on their charges at the same time. 

If there is a problem on a bus without an aide or monitor, the bus driver would need to pull over and deal with the situation.

If all buses — we include buses that have older students too — were required to have another adult whose primary job is to take care of the kids on the bus, that person could handle any problems that might arise.

If the aide is properly trained — with basic first aid and CPR — it could also save a child’s life.

In March, a medical emergency arose on a Walton school bus.  First-grader Danielle Miller was choking on a piece of candy and eighth-grader Rachel Trimbell performed the Heimlich maneuver on her, probably saving her life. Dave Edwards, the bus driver, was alerted to the problem by other students screaming, “She’s choking!” Edwards knew Rachel is a member of the Walton Fire Department Explorer Post and is certified in CPR and first aid, and called on her to help. If Rachel hadn’t been there, it would have taken Edwards time to pull over and get to the choking girl.

A spokesman for the state School Boards Association, Al Marlin, said that decisions regarding the safeguarding of students and staff are “best made at the local level.”

“School boards are committed to keeping students and staff safe, and take steps to do so each day through their local decision making, policies and procedures,” Marlin said.

Of course, with all things that are mandated, the question of funding comes up. With most of our area being rural, school buses are the main mode of transportation for children. The more bus routes a school has the more people they will need to hire — and the higher the budget.

But student safety needs to come first. Just as schools were granted funds to improve school security, offering a funding stream for bus monitors makes sense, so the local tax impact is minimal.

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