A school bus driver for Haralson County Schools in Alabama was terminated after he posted a comment on Facebook about a student not receiving a free lunch. The case serves as the latest example of the confusing and risky nature of social media posts by school employees and calls to light the importance of school district policy.
The district, located about 50 miles west of Atlanta near the Alabama border, said Johnny Cook not only violated employee policy in posting his comment about the unnamed student, but also got his facts wrong, which Cook, pictured above, denies.
BUFFALO — UTU-member and Buffalo school bus driver Yolanda Luciano (Local 1908) is being hailed as a hero — likely saving the lives of one or more of the eight elementary-school students aboard her First Student bus by engaging in a split-second emergency defensive driving maneuver on a snowy street the afternoon of Dec. 8.
An automobile, its driver allegedly fleeing police — and perhaps traveling 100 mph before the crash, according to Buffalo television news reports — appeared in Luciano’s windshield, coming directly at her bus.
Luciano abruptly steered the bus from a direct head-on impact with the blue Chevrolet Impala, but it was still a head-on crash.
“Everything went up in smoke and flames, just horrible,” an eyewitness told WGRZ television news. Luciano helped evacuate the children from the bus.
“She really handled the situation well,” said General Chairperson Dale McClain. “She saved lives.”
Only one student — a six-year-old — was injured seriously enough to be hospitalized with non life-threatening injuries. The driver of the auto also was hospitalized with unspecified injuries.
UTU Local 1908 represents some 600 First Student drivers and mechanics in Buffalo.
The UTU, other labor unions and the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO are jointly tackling workplace training, discipline and other workplace safety and economic issues on behalf of school bus drivers.
Nationwide, school bus drivers face daily challenges in their work, with their employers and with school bus districts.
Not to brag, but the UTU supplied the most comprehensive list of issues that impact school bus drivers. Those issues reveal a need for more specialized training, better strategies for preventing students from opening emergency exits while the bus is in motion, installation of electronic alerts as to when students unfasten their seatbelts, assigning monitors aboard buses, and implementation of a more realistic agility test requirement for drivers.
The UTU also has taken the lead in pushing for improved job security for school bus drivers. Too often, drivers are furloughed because of subcontracting, and disqualified from service without just cause.
Legislatively, the UTU is lobbying for increased and more reliable public funding for school bus operations, limitations on the ability of schools to subcontract driving responsibilities, and to correct legislation that puts a CDL at risk for driver infractions when operating their personal vehicles. The UTU also is fighting limitations on benefits for part-time drivers.
All these issues were discussed in a recent joint conference call hosted by TTD. Besides myself, UTU officers participating in the call included Alternate National Legislative Director John Risch and New Jersey State Legislative Director Dan O’Connell. A result was creation of a comprehensive list of legislative objectives that will be pursued jointly by the UTU, the AFL-CIO and other TTD-member unions.