Hampton City Schools addressing bus safety issue
The Virginia Department of Education recently notified the commonwealth’s 132 school divisions that as many as 4,000 school buses may need retrofitting to install a safety device that prevents the parking brake from accidently disengaging.
In Hampton, 41 out of a total of 212 buses could be impacted. Darrin Wills, director of transportation for Hampton City Schools, is working with the school bus vendors to install the safety device.
“The safety of our students is a high priority and we are working to ensure the appropriate retrofitting occurs as soon as possible,” Wills said.
The device — a brake interlock — is required in Virginia on all buses with automatic transmissions purchased after March 24, 2011, when the mechanism was added to the state Board of Education’s minimum specifications for school buses. On buses equipped with a brake interlock, it is not possible to release the parking brake without first depressing the brake pedal.
Unlike most passenger vehicles with automatic transmissions, school bus transmissions do not have a “park” setting. After stopping the bus, the driver places the bus in neutral, and then pulls the parking brake valve on the dashboard. Without the interlock, the parking brake could accidently disengage — for example, if a student were to slip and inadvertently fall against the brake valve.
School divisions were alerted to the issue after VDOE tested individual buses purchased from the leading manufacturers after March 2011 and found that none of the vehicles was equipped with the required parking brake interlock. Dealers provided the department with estimates on the number of noncompliant buses sold to school divisions since the specification was approved by the state board.
School divisions report annually on school bus accidents to VDOE’s Office of Support Services. The office is not aware of an incident in which a student or other person was injured by a school bus that inadvertently rolled because of an accidently disengaged parking brake. There are no reports of incidents in Hampton.
VDOE is surveying school divisions to identify all school buses in need of retrofitting. Dealers and manufacturers have been directed to submit plans to the department detailing the steps that will be taken to install brake interlocks on all non-compliant buses at no expense to school divisions. The retrofitting can be done in about 90 minutes by factory or dealer technicians at division pupil transportation facilities.
In addition, VDOE is asking all school bus manufacturers doing business in the commonwealth to make sure that interlock devices have been installed and are working as specified on all new buses delivered to Virginia school divisions.
HCS does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age or other protected classes in its programs and activities and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Robbin G. Ruth, Executive Director, Human Resources, One Franklin Street, Hampton, VA 23669 757-727-2000.
As stated in School Board Policy AC, Hampton City Schools (“HCS”) does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender, age, disability or other protected class in its programs, activities and employment practices and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. HCS also prohibits retaliation under School Board Policy GBAH for the purpose of interfering with a person’s rights and/or privileges under federal civil rights laws, which can include: (i) raising concerns with Division personnel about a civil rights violation; (ii) asserting a right or advocating for the rights of a student or employee under federal civil rights laws; or (iii) participating in a complaint investigation or related proceedings.
All individuals are encouraged to promptly report any incident they believe to be discrimination, harassment or retaliation in violation of HCS School Board Policy. All reports should be made to the HCS Compliance Officer, who also serves as the HCS Executive Director of Human Resources. Upon receiving a report of alleged discrimination, harassment or retaliation, the Compliance Officer shall promptly authorize an investigation into the complaint, determine whether the alleged act occurred, and determine whether any action must be taken to end or prevent further harassment, discrimination, or retaliation. For more information about this process, please review School Board Policy GBAB-R.Should you have any questions about these procedures or the contents of this notice, please contact Hampton City Schools Compliance Officer at: One Franklin Street, Hampton, VA 23669 or (757) 727-2300.
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