School bus drivers trained to handle attacks

mgaytan@losbanosenterprise.comAugust 4, 2013 

— About 20 Los Banos school bus drivers received training Wednesday to try to prepare them in case a gunman attacks one of their buses.

Presented by the Merced County Sheriff's Department, the training came just in time for school, which resumes this month. It was held at the Los Banos Unified School District's Facilities, Operations and Transportation Department.

Deputy Delray Shelton, Sheriff's Department spokesman, said the training was designed to give drivers hands-on, practical skills for dealing with a gunman on a bus.

The training addressed a number of topics, including how to react to the circumstances calmly and use sound judgment in handling a potentially deadly situation.

"We go over mentality of active shooters. We give statistics of past incidents, the do's and the don'ts. We give strategies for survival and basically we go over scenarios," Shelton said.

The scenarios presented by the Sheriff's Department were all the more important because of real-life incidents.

In 1976, for example, 26 children and their bus driver were kidnapped in Chowchilla. Even more recently, there was the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut last year.

Transportation Supervisor Susan Rodrigues said she came up with the idea to have her drivers trained to be prepared to deal with attackers.

"With all the training going on with the school sites, I just thought that the bus drivers needed to be up on all this, too. They need to have the same training that the teachers are getting right now," Rodrigues said.

The Sheriff's Department will be giving similar training to all the school districts in Merced County about active shooters on campuses and in classrooms.

"We're not in a classroom, we're in a bus, I think it all applies. The same thing that could happen in the classroom could happen on a bus," Rodrigues said.

The main goal for the Sheriff's Department and the school district is to understand how to handle these types of situations even though every one can be different.

"Eventually, our goal is for all districts to have a template and the know-how to preserve life in dealing with active shooters," Shelton said.

Every school bus driver has to have 10 hours of education each year to maintain their licenses. The training they received Wednesday fulfilled a portion of that ongoing education requirement.

Shelton said the Sheriff's Department is trying to give bus drivers the tools they need.

"So if something was to ever happen, they would definitely have a chance of survival — to protect them and the students that are on the bus," he said.

Reporter Marina Gaytan can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or mgaytan@losbanosenterprise.com.

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