The following information comes from our friends at Utica National Insurance Group. Their new risk management alert – Student Transportation Issues, Options and Training – aims to assist schools with student transportation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in hiring problems for all segments of business – including schools. It has become common in recent years for schools to experience a shortage of bus drivers, causing educational institutions to seek alternatives.
PLEASE NOTE: Our preference is for student transportation to be provided by properly trained and certified school employees or a licensed/insured school bus contractor using properly trained and certified drivers. All other options should only be considered after a strong effort to hire and train your own staff.
A Temporary Solution
If transportation cannot or will not be provided by the school, it should be made clear to parents/guardians independent transportation will be required – and from that point the school should stay out of the matter. The more involved a school is in recommending alternative transportation solutions, the more potential there is for a possible argument of negligence against the school in the event of an accident.
Recent news reports noted that the Massachusetts governor called in the National Guard to assist with student transportation. While perhaps not the ideal situation, Massachusetts added two caveats:
- Most importantly, anyone operating a school bus must be properly certified as with a typical bus driver – there are no shortcuts or exceptions to that requirement.
- A bus monitor must be assigned to each bus to handle student management.
A state’s decision to allow the National Guard to drive buses is acceptable, provided the above points are followed.
Parents and Guardians
In some cases, transportation services can be offered by the school but, for various reasons, the school may be willing to let a parent/guardian transport the student themselves. Ideally, parents/guardians will drive their own children to/from each activity. However, there will be times when a parent/guardian is unavailable. When this happens, the parent/guardian may wish to have another child’s parent/guardian drive the student.
While not preferred, if Parent A/Guardian A is willing to provide the school with express written consent for their child to be permitted to travel with Parent B/Guardian, then that can be acceptable.
However, parents/guardians giving permission must be specific and the school must be diligent in following the parent/guardian instructions. For example, if permission has been given for a student to travel with another student’s mother, but not specifically with the father, then the student should not be released to him. If the student is permitted to be driven by either of the other child’s parents/guardians, but, for example, an older sister shows up instead, the student should not be released.
The last consideration is when students drive themselves. This option is not recommended and should only be considered if all other means are impossible, and after careful consideration by the school board. Again, receiving express written consent from the parent/guardian allowing their child to drive themselves should be considered mandatory.
We have developed sample forms for your school to use related to student transportation and parent/guardian permission.
Vector Solutions Training
When it comes to driver training, the member companies of the Utica National Insurance Group recommend that schools go above and beyond the basic requirements. To assist with that, Vector Solutions training is available to all of our school policyholders at no additional charge. This includes transportation courses listed under Safety and Compliance as well as school bus safety courses listed separately: Complete Course Listing K-12 catalog.
Utica National also developed sample forms for your school policyholders to use related to student transportation and parent/guardian permission.
For more information regarding transportation issues, or any other issues facing your school, please contact an Insurance People Risk advisor or visit Utica National’s website.