Courtesy of:  Betty Yu and Brian Hamacher @

A dozen students were hospitalized after a school bus collided with a car in Opa-locka Monday morning, officials said.

The accident happened in the area of Northwest 37th Avenue and Langley Road when the bus was rear-ended by the car, the Miami-Dade Fire Department said.

A total of 13 people were injured, including twelve students and the bus driver, officials said. The students were taken to nearby hospitals with minor injuries.

The bus had been on its way to Palm Springs Middle School in Hialeah when the crash happened, school board officials said.  The bus driver refused to be taken to the hospital. Two other students who were on the bus weren't injured and were taken to school.

The driver, who didn't want to be identified, said she felt a jolt when the car hit, and said the students were screaming and a little shaken up.

Article/Video Online:  http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/5-Hospitalized-After-School-Bus-Crash-in-Opa-locka-205217951.html
 
 
Courtesy of:  Andre Senior @ WTSP.com - Channel 10

Mulberry, Florida - A Polk Co. School district bus driver was among the 3 people who were killed in an early morning crash in Mulberry.

The accident happened at the intersection of Coronet Road and Sheppard Road at around 2:40 Sunday morning.

Dorothy Operhall was traveling in a red Chrysler Sebring, along with her boyfriend Leonard Simmons, Melina Helbig and Robert Helbig, the only person to survive the crash.

According to police, the crash happened when a GMC pickup truck, driven by Edward McCoy, ran a stop sign, slammed into the Sebring - causing both vehicles to flip upside down.

"Polk County School Board has lost a valuable employee and we're going to miss her," said Lilly Wasp, Operhall's co-worker.

The 56-year-old is survived by her three children and five grandchildren.

"My grandma was a happy person. She was my bus driver and she loved all her grandchildren a lot," said Kiersten Johnson, Operhall's Granddaughter.

All of the occupants of the Sebring were wearing their seatbelts. The occupants of the Sebring are related to each other - two of the people in the car are siblings (brother and sister) but at this time we are unclear which two. 
 
The Helbigs were here visiting from Pennsylvania. They were returning to the Operhall/Simmons home from the Hard Rock Café in Tampa when the crash occurred. 

Charges against McCoy are pending final toxicology results and the medical condition of the surviving victim. 

The roadways were closed for about eight hours, and have been re-opened.  

The investigation is ongoing.

Article Online:
http://www.wtsp.com/news/topstories/article/313826/250/3-killed-in-crash-including-Polk-school-bus-driver
 
 
Courtesy of:  Roger Weeder of First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Robert and Ruth Monigold are frustrated after seeing cell phone video of their 13 year-old daughter attacked in a First Student bus on her way home from school.

"There is no way the bus driver could not have heard anything or seen anything," said the dad from his Northside home commenting on the April 3 incident.

Police say the teen was the victim of an unprovoked attack and was hit at least 10 times. She missed a week of school according to her parents after suffering injuries to her eye socket.

Ruth Monigold said what is of more concern is the response they got from their daughter's school, Eugene Butler Middle School.

"The school told me they could not guarantee the security of my daughter," said the mother, who enrolled her daughter in another middle school.

The family did press charges against the teen accused of tossing the punches. She faces battery charges.

"Do they have to kill a kid on a bus before they actually do something about it?" said the teen's mother who said her daughter is paranoid about going out.  A spokesperson for Duval County Public Schools was not aware of the incident. 
 
Update: Timothy Stokes, spokesperson for First Student Inc., gave First Coast News the following statement:

"First Student was made aware of the April 3 incident involving students during their afternoon departure by representatives from the school district. Immediately, an investigation was conducted, where it was determined the driver was unaware of the incident that occurred while at a bus stop. 

"The safety and security of the students we transport to and from school is our top priority and something we take very seriously. Our drivers are highly trained to provide students with a safe form of transportation daily. If an instance of aggressive behavior occurs on one of our buses, our drivers are trained to secure the bus in a safe location and radio dispatch for assistance. Dispatch then notifies the proper authorities, whether that is local law enforcement or school officials, to respond. Following this incident, the driver has gone through additional training to ensure that an incident like this does not go unnoticed again."

Full Article and Video: 
http://www.firstcoastnews.com/topstories/article/310600/483/School-bus-attack-has-parents-wanting-answers-
 
 
Courtesy of The St. Augustine Record

INTERLACHEN (AP) — A north Florida bus driver has been charged after a crash that sent five children to the hospital.

Florida Highway Patrol officials said the school bus was carrying 38 children when it collided with a van Friday afternoon. Paramedics transported three children to the hospital. Two others were also taken to the hospital, but the extent of their injuries is not known.

School bus driver, 54-year-old John Brantley, was charged with not yielding to another vehicle.

 Article Online:  http://staugustine.com/news/florida-news/2013-04-20/5-children-taken-hospital-after-fla-bus-crash
 
 
Courtesy of By Joe Callahan - Staff writer @ Ocala.com

A Marion County school bus driver was suspended without pay by the School Board on Tuesday, six weeks after she dropped a first-grader off at a wrong stop.

Superintendent of Schools George Tomyn recommended a 10-day suspension because it was the second time this school
year that the driver, Gloria Chosewood, had dropped a child off at a wrong stop, according to a School District report.

The School Board agreed to uphold Tomyn's recommendation. Chosewood will be on unpaid leave from April 15 through
April 26.  The most recent incident occurred on Feb. 26 when Chosewood allowed an East Marion Elementary first-grader to get off at a bus stop just before the child's home, officials said.

Officials said when the bus arrived at the child's stop, the parents discovered their child was missing. A frantic search ensued and the child was found at a neighbor's home a short time later.

Afterward, Chosewood did not notify the district about the incident. That, in itself, is against district policies and procedures. The district administration learned of the incident from the boy's parents the following day.

The first incident occurred on Aug. 22 when a Fort McCoy School student on Chosewood's later bus route got off at a
wrong bus stop. Officials handed down a three-day unpaid suspension in that case, documents state.

Chosewood could not be reached for comment. Jane Roach, local business agent and spokeswoman for the bus driver's
union, known as International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, did not return call for comment.

Lisa Krysalka, executive director of human resources, said Chosewood did not request a hearing to protest the discipline.

Article continued online: http://www.ocala.com/article/20130409/ARTICLES/130409641?p=2&tc=pg

 
 
Courtesy of:  Danny Valentine - Tampa Bay Times

Hernando County school bus drivers clustered in small groups one day last week as bright yellow buses roared out of the bus barn on the way to their afternoon pickups.  On many of their minds: The school district's long-running driver shortage.

The pool of substitute drivers has drastically dwindled. When anyone is out — sick, on vacation or leave — they need to pick up the slack.  "It's tough," said driver Tom Bosse. "It puts a lot of stress on us."

The shortage means all hands behind the wheel — drivers pick up entire routes or cover extra stops. When no substitutes are left, employees from the transportation department's office help.

"When you don't have enough drivers to cover the routes, then that makes everybody uneasy," said Doris Roberts, an 18-year veteran. "We don't have enough drivers here."  It's an issue across the Tampa Bay area.

Every school district in the region, to varying degrees, is experiencing a shortage of bus drivers.

Hillsborough County has the biggest deficit. At last count, there were 144 vacancies. Another 21 drivers were on leaves of absence, and the rate of absenteeism is 20 percent.

The workforce feels the stress, service union president Vicki Lawry told the School Board at a recent meeting.

"Your drivers are taxed, they're tired, they double-trip, they triple-trip, they are overloaded," Lawry said. "They are doing everything they can in order to run as efficiently and effectively and as safely as possible." In some cases, "we're talking 65 to 77 students with one adult to control it all."

They've tried to boost their recruiting: In December, the School Board okayed bonuses to employees who successfully recruit drivers.  Pinellas County's school district currently has 518 bus drivers and 35 driver openings, said schools spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra. On an average day, about 20 drivers might be absent, she noted.

This is about normal and "enough to cover all of the routes safely," she said.  The shortage means bus drivers regularly cover extra bus stops or extra routes, she said, as is done in the other districts.

Pinellas driver Joe Morgan said bus drivers have grown used to the shortage. "It's an every year thing," he said.

Pasco County schools appeared in the best shape, needing fewer than 10 drivers, said Gary Sawyer, Pasco schools transportation director. He said the district is not forced to have drivers consistently making double or triple runs.

"We consider ourselves in excellent shape," he said. "I can remember years ago we were in the same boat as everybody else."
He said he noticed the bus driver staffing situation improve when the district upped the pay to $11.25 an hour.  Hernando County transportation director Doug Compton is keenly aware of the problems facing drivers.

"Anytime someone has to go above and beyond the normal duties, the normal route, it certainly would get stressful," he said.

While drivers feel the strain, district officials said there are very few instances of students being delivered late to school.  Hernando seems to have had the most issues.  In March, the district had two days where two buses were delayed by about an
hour because it didn't have enough drivers, Compton said.

As a result, the district curtailed hours the buses would be available for field trips and sporting events.  Some events have had to be canceled or rescheduled. Other times, schools must charter buses.

Weeki Wachee High School athletic director Mark Lee says that's not a problem this year because there is enough money in the travel budget for athletic events, but could be an issue next year.

Hernando superintendent Bryan Blavatt said a more drastic change might be needed if the situation doesn't change: ending district-provided busing for all field trips.  "Maybe we can't do field trips because our primary focus has to be getting
kids to and from school," he said.

Hernando is looking at staffing changes for next year, adding permanent "utility operators" instead of relying on part-time substitutes. This is more in line with what's done at the other districts.  Meanwhile, the district has been ferociously trying to add new drivers, advertising on bumper stickers and marquees throughout the county.

So why is it so challenging to find bus drivers?  Money, many drivers say.  "We start at $10.56 an hour for the responsibility of everything that goes on inside and outside the bus," said Lawry, the Hillsborough union president.

She said drivers put up with a lot of disruptions and headaches.  Pinellas bus driver Morgan agreed.  "I think it's a sin that we're paid so little amount of money for the responsibilities that we have," the eight-year driver said.  Morgan said he feels bus drivers are treated with a lack of respect from the school district.

Compton said part of the reason for the shortage is because it is difficult to find a well-qualified applicant. Drivers must pass a drug test and background check and go through a 40-hour unpaid training period.

"It's a stringent process, and we're very picky," he said.

Online Article: 
http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/low-pay-high-expectations-fuel-shortages-of-school-bus-drivers/2113743
 
 
Published on Mar 29,  2013
Courtesy of ABC

 
A St. Lucie County school bus aide is behind bars after she was caught on camera harassing a 5-year-old boy with disabilities, driving him to tears.

Online Video of actual school bus tape:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kzKWK8G_tQ

 
 
Courtesy of:  NorthEscambia.com

The Escambia County (FLORIDA) Sheriff’s Office and the school district joined forces this week to conduct a hostage training exercise.

“We are here in conjunction with the school board; they’ve donated us a bus to practice on in case we ever had the situation where there was a hostage situation  they recently had in Alabama,” Ted Roy said. “If we practice it, then hopefully if it ever happens we would be ready for it.”

“Events in the last few months forces all of us to take a second thought about we can protect our valuable asset, our children,” Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said about school security. “So with the sheriff conducting exercises like he is doing today, it should increase confidence of our citizens that our students are going to be safe when you leave them in our care.”

Roy said the exercise allowed the SWAT team to become familiar with the school buses and look as positions the team might use in a real-life hostage scenario. With a plan in place, Roy said, the SWAT team can react faster.


Article Online:  http://www.northescambia.com/2013/03/swat-team-conducts-school-bus-hostage-training
 
 
Courtesy of: ABC Action News

A 7-year-old girl was struck by a van passing a school bus with its stop sign deployed Wednesday morning. The van's driver was charged with reckless driving and taken to the Polk County Jail.

The child, Vanessa Perez of Haines City, was airlifted to Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital in Orlando where she 
was last listed in serious condition.

According to a sheriff's statement, the girl was hit by  a Dodge Caravan driven by 45-year-old Glenn McCarthy of Kissimmee.

He was heading eastbound on Johnson Avenue East at the Ellison Parkway intersection.  A Polk County School bus was stopped  with its stop signal arm deployed and lights flashing, facing westbound on  Johnson Avenue.  

McCarthy continued east and hit the girl.   She was thrown several feet in the air and landed on the road.

McCarthy  was arrested and charged with Willful/Wanton Reckless Driving.  He will  also be cited for failing to stop for a school bus, according to the statement.

There were 40-50 children on the bus when the girl was hit.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd issued the following statement:   "It's a miracle this child survived being hit by a mini-van, and we are  grateful for that.  We can't stress it enough - you MUST OBEY traffic  safety devices.  They are there for a reason - to keep our children  safe.  Failure to do so will land you in jail, or result in a hefty fine,  and can result in injury to yourself or others.  We pray for a swift  recovery for little Vanessa."

Article Online: 
http://www.abcactionnews.com/dpp/news/region_polk/haines_city/girl-hit-by-van-passing-stopped-polk-county-school-bus
 
 
Courtesy of the Palm Harbor Patch

Palm Harbor Middle School bus driver Jim Letos was taking kids to school when he saw a toddler standing alone on the side of U.S. 19.

A Palm Harbor Middle School bus driver who pulled his school bus over to rescue a toddler standing on the side of U.S. 19 will be honored Tuesday by the Pinellas County School Board.

Jim Letos was driving students to school on Monday, Feb. 11, when he noticed a toddler who appeared to be unattended on the side of U.S. 19. Letos, who has been a school bus driver in Pinellas County for 19 years, pulled the school bus off the road, got off the bus and rescued the child. Students on the bus helped care for the toddler until Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies
arrived, according to Pinellas County School District documents.

The child's parents came out of a nearby motel searching for the child. Letos told the parents he had their child on the bus. Pinellas County Sheriff's deputies arrived and helped resolve the situation.

Pinellas County School Superintendent Michael Grego praised Letos' quick response and thoughtful actions in a memo:

"His actions in handling this situation exemplify that school bus drivers have a high regard for the safety of their students and the community as a whole.

In this brief moment of time, Mr. Letos also served as a role model to the students on his bus in the way he reacted to this situation. He could have easily driven on to his next bus stop and ignored this situation as so many other drivers were doing at the time."

Online:  http://palmharbor.patch.com/articles/school-bus-driver-rescues-toddler-from-side-of-u-s-19#photo-13637838