4 year olds unrestrained on school bus

U

Unregistered

Guest
My 4 year old triplets are in a 4K program run by our local public school district for kids who are not on track to be kindergarten-ready by next fall. Bus services are provided for the children. They use a regular full-size school bus. The children are not restrained in any way (seatbelts, carseats, etc.).

All of my kids have some core-muscle strength issues, but especially my son. This means that he often falls out of chairs. I know that sounds kind of weird, but even just sitting at the kitchen table, he will commonly just fall on the floor. I expressed my concern about the schoolbus seating at the beginning of the year, but was assured that they had never had an issue, there was another adult on the route to watch the kids in addition to the driver, buses are safer than cars and vans, etc.

As I should have predicted would happen eventually, yesterday James fell out of the school bus seat. Apparently the driver went down a hill and turned, and he lost his balance. Fell directly on his head. He was not seriously injured - they got medical attention and all that and he was OK. But it is only a matter of time before this happens again, so something has to change, right?

I talked to the transportation people this morning, and told them that in many school districts, children in public preschool programs are in carseats or seatbelts. The director told me that he would discuss it with his supervisor and get back to me.

What should I be asking for? What is realistic for a public school system to provide, balancing cost concerns with safety?
 

babyherder

New member
How much do your children weigh? From what I've heard school bus safety is based on compartmentalization which only works for children at least 40 lbs. Until 40lbs they need harnesses on the bus.

Do you want your kids in this program? (Assuming this since you send them but just checking since you don't seem comfortable with the transportation). Can you drive them?

As for allowing an unrestrained child to fall on the floor this is not ok! I'm glad your son is ok but if I were you I would be livid! Probably a good thing I'm not you as you seem to be handling it more rationally.

Hopefully a tech will have something more to add but if I were you I would be asking for harnesses for at least your son and maybe your other children, depending on size.
 

ketchupqueen

CPST and ketchup snob
Staff member
Actually, compartmentalization working has very little to do with weight-- more to do with height and age. "Preschool-aged children" are supposed to be restrained in harnesses on the bus.

ESPECIALLY if your son's needs mean he cannot sit properly on the bus, he needs to be restrained in a harness. There are harness seats that the SD can purchase that don't require seatbelts-- the Safeguard STAR, for instance, uses a "cam wrap" method of attachment (wrapping all the way around the bus seat) instead.
 

swtgi1982

New member
I agree I would demand harnesses for all your kids. I friend of mine did this for her son in kindergarten. She could not transport her son to school, so she went as far as providing a car seat (a cheap one, but still better then nothing for the bus for him.) She went to the bus barn ahead of time and installed it on the bus, showing the driver how to use it properly so she could show her aide that rode along. The district assured her that her seat would only be used for her son and not removed from the bus at any time. The first fews times she boarded the bus with him and watched them put him in it and made sure they did it right. She is working on this now for next school year with her DD since she will be in a public preschool as yours are next fall.

Also if your kids have documented medical issues they are required by law to accommodate them. Get a letter from their Dr stating their issues and put it in their files with the school transportation dept (keep a copy for yourself of course), so that if they say they did not know, then you can say yes you did it is in their files. Hold them accountable 100% It is your kids safety we are talking about here.
 

jsmom

New member
Is it possible to drive them in? DD starts school next Sept and she will be four. They dont have any harnesses or allow seats on the buses here so she will be driven everyday. I hope they can find a solution for you.
 

Evolily

New member
Is it possible to drive them in? DD starts school next Sept and she will be four. They dont have any harnesses or allow seats on the buses here so she will be driven everyday. I hope they can find a solution for you.
Buses are so safe according to the real world data (which includes many preschool kids coming and going daily) that I would not recommend driving a child, even a 4 year old child, over riding a school bus unrestrained. It is definitely a parental decision, though- I just wouldn't recommend it.
 

ketchupqueen

CPST and ketchup snob
Staff member
I don't remember the numbers but I believe it was cited as the height of the "average 6 year old" in our tech class, and definitely kids at 5 or 6-- booster age-- have more complete bone development than younger children. Also, by the time they are booster age they are generally more able to sit properly the whole time on the bus (obviously SN kids are excluded from that. :) )
 

jsmom

New member
Buses are so safe according to the real world data (which includes many preschool kids coming and going daily) that I would not recommend driving a child, even a 4 year old child, over riding a school bus unrestrained. It is definitely a parental decision, though- I just wouldn't recommend it.
Height/weight doesnt matter at all? I highly doubt DD will be 40lbs next Sept and all I can picture is her flying around the bus if there were an accident. I figured she would be safer riding RF in our vehicle to and from school.
 
U

Unregistered

Guest
How much do your children weigh? From what I've heard school bus safety is based on compartmentalization which only works for children at least 40 lbs. Until 40lbs they need harnesses on the bus.

Do you want your kids in this program? (Assuming this since you send them but just checking since you don't seem comfortable with the transportation). Can you drive them?

As for allowing an unrestrained child to fall on the floor this is not ok! I'm glad your son is ok but if I were you I would be livid! Probably a good thing I'm not you as you seem to be handling it more rationally.

Hopefully a tech will have something more to add but if I were you I would be asking for harnesses for at least your son and maybe your other children, depending on size.

My kids weigh about 32 pounds each, and are right at 40" tall.

I do want my kids in the program, but the transportation is a major issue. Unfortunately this program runs opposite hours as my other daughter's school, so between that and therapy appts, I have absolutely no choice but to let them ride the bus.

My son falls SOOO often, that truly it doesn't freak me out as much as it probably should! I think the driver was really shaken up about it!
 
U

Unregistered

Guest
Actually, compartmentalization working has very little to do with weight-- more to do with height and age. "Preschool-aged children" are supposed to be restrained in harnesses on the bus.

ESPECIALLY if your son's needs mean he cannot sit properly on the bus, he needs to be restrained in a harness. There are harness seats that the SD can purchase that don't require seatbelts-- the Safeguard STAR, for instance, uses a "cam wrap" method of attachment (wrapping all the way around the bus seat) instead.
I will definitely ask them about this - thanks!
 
U

Unregistered

Guest
Also if your kids have documented medical issues they are required by law to accommodate them. Get a letter from their Dr stating their issues and put it in their files with the school transportation dept (keep a copy for yourself of course), so that if they say they did not know, then you can say yes you did it is in their files. Hold them accountable 100% It is your kids safety we are talking about here.

I'm such a pushover, it hadn't even occurred to me to do this. We have physical therapy tomorrow - I will ask the PT to contact our dr for a note. THANK YOU!
 
U

Unregistered

Guest
I don't remember the numbers but I believe it was cited as the height of the "average 6 year old" in our tech class, and definitely kids at 5 or 6-- booster age-- have more complete bone development than younger children. Also, by the time they are booster age they are generally more able to sit properly the whole time on the bus (obviously SN kids are excluded from that. :) )
Yeah, we are still trying to get to average 4 year old height, so obviously we aren't anywhere close to that!

Unfortunately, they haven't really classified my kids as true special needs. The "real" special needs kids have a special bus with restraints. We are in that weird group that falls through the cracks. Not truly special needs, but not typical either. They will probably be in a mainstream classroom, but will still get speech, OT, and PT throughout their school years. Most of the kids in their class are from disadvantaged homes, as opposed to truly having developmental issues like my kids. So I think the school district just assumes that don't need any extra help, and since I didn't step up in the beginning...
 
U

Unregistered

Guest
Height/weight doesnt matter at all? I highly doubt DD will be 40lbs next Sept and all I can picture is her flying around the bus if there were an accident. I figured she would be safer riding RF in our vehicle to and from school.
Just to add to your worry, here's something else I hadn't really thought about before yesterday. Our kids have ALWAYS been fully harnessed, so they haven't learned to brace themselves, lean away from the way the bus is turning, etc. So they get thrown around a LOT more than you might expect.
 

Evolily

New member
Height/weight doesnt matter at all? I highly doubt DD will be 40lbs next Sept and all I can picture is her flying around the bus if there were an accident. I figured she would be safer riding RF in our vehicle to and from school.
Does it matter? Yes. Does compartmentalization fail for smaller children? No- it just doesn't work as well, thus ideally we want them harnessed. Buses, like city buses, without compartmentalization, with standing passengers, etc are also very safe. The reasons include the size of the bus (buses are large and tend to "win" in accidents), the amount of training bus drivers receive, and that bus drivers drive the same route every day so are use to the terrain

In one school year approximately 7 children and 4 school bus drivers died on school buses- this includes both going to and from school, field trips, afterschool activities, etc. During that same time period 800 children died in cars going to and from school.

It would be a parental decision- my decision, with A & C who are currently riding with lap belts only on their bus (A is 36 lbs and 38 in, C is 41 lbs and 44 in), was and is that they are as safe or safer riding the bus as they would be having me drive them in properly installed forward facing seats. I would LOVE to have them harnessed, but as they aren't my kids so it isn't my battle. Harnessing is still something I would fight for, though, if they were my kids.
 
Last edited:

flipper68

Senior Community Member
Unfortunately, they haven't really classified my kids as true special needs. The "real" special needs kids have a special bus with restraints. We are in that weird group that falls through the cracks. Not truly special needs, but not typical either. They will probably be in a mainstream classroom, but will still get speech, OT, and PT throughout their school years. Most of the kids in their class are from disadvantaged homes, as opposed to truly having developmental issues like my kids. So I think the school district just assumes that don't need any extra help, and since I didn't step up in the beginning...
How were your kids ID'd for this program?

If they have not already been evaluated by the public school, they need to be. If they qualify for special education, SP, OT, and/or PT THROUGH the public school, they ARE kids with "True Special Needs" in the eyes of the public school. Just because you can't see a disability (w/c, braces, hearing aids, syndrome with physical features) doesn't mean they don't have a disabilty.

Ages 3-5 is a "fall through the cracks" time in some school districts. The child no longer qualifies for homebased programs (birth to 3), but preK opportunities may be limited. The federal regs are not as "tight" for this age compared to the other age groups.

There are lots of threads about special education and advocating for special education services/accomodations on this forum (with links to regulations, etc.). Educate yourself on your state's special education laws as well as the federal regs. Seach for "IEP" or "special education" plus your state.

Also, I'd encourage you to contact the sped director at your children's school (sometimes called a coordinator or assistant principal) to discuss your concerns as well as options and next steps. If you are not pleased with the results, contact the special education department at the district level.
 

Evolily

New member
In the US there is a law that within so many days of a request for a special ed evaluation they MUST do it or provide you with a sound reason why they won't (they don't do this for an initial usually). It takes time, though, and it's important to submit it in writing. C, who is on the autism spectrum (high functioning), receives two speech therapy sessions, one occupational therapy sessions, and resource at his school. A, who has articulation issues with speech (90% unintelligible to a stranger), receives one speech therapy session and resource. Most of the kids in their classes are "typical" but at risk, because it's an inclusion based program and they must maintain at least a 70:30 ratio of regular to special ed children.
 

safeinthecar

Moderator - CPS Technician
Start with your PT. Ask for a letter stating the medical reasons why sitting unrestrained in a bus is unacceptable for your children.

Next, get a letter from the bus driver and aide confirming they have witnessed the trouble first hand.

Contact your medical insurance and find out the process for getting a SN seat covered.

Contact the school and ask for an IEP meeting.

The school district may end up paying for a restraint, or the insurance may get there first, but by going both routes at the same time you may cut down on your waiting time. You could also buy a Star yourself and then work all the angles to get reimbursed as long as the bus driver is in agreement with using them.
 

swtgi1982

New member
Our local school district transports all kids under kindergarten age (5) on the special needs buses with restraints, so I guess I can not say to much how to help.
 

Kat_Momof3

New member
our school is the same way... all kids who aren't in Kindergarten go on the Special Needs bus... of course, one reason they CAN do this is because the SN bus is a BIG full sized bus (just with the chair lift and restraints)... not a small bus like some schools have for SN.

In fact, I had to really kind of push for my daughter to go on the regular bus this year for kindy, but she was coming home on it sometimes when her driver was sick and that was all they could get as a sub (you have to have a special certificate to drive the SN bus... so they'd send one of those drivers to take the kids who HAD to... kids with wheelchairs and stuff... and send the rest home more promptly with the morning kindergartners)

I pushed because I knew from the bus drivers that she was ready... it was the teachers who were concerned because they didn't know how she'd do... but between driver feedback and two older brothers to take turns sitting with her when she came home (afternoon kindy, so when she goes to school, it's just her and the other kindy kids), I knew she'd do just as well as she's doing.

Anyway... my point is... I'd first talk with the driver... how are your kids behaving during the ride?

If the kids aren't sitting still the whole time, I'd definitely get a meeting to add the requirement of them going on the SN bus to their IEPs... you can request ammendments to them and I wouldn't hesitate at that age.

For most 4yr olds, the occasional field trip on the school buses isn't a problem, but trust me, I wouldn't have sent my daughter last year on the regular bus every single trip and she was only really going for speech... 4yr olds just still don't have that maturity to really listen to rules and understand why they are there... and the temptation to move around is too attractive to them.
 

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