The next few weeks mark the beginning of the school year all across Missouri. It’s an exciting time for students, parents and teachers as we say goodbye to summer and look forward to fall sports and activities. Along with all this excitement comes changing schedules, more cars and buses on the roads and more students walking to and from school, which means it’s a great opportunity to remember several safety tips intended to keep our kids out of harm’s way.
First off, with tens of thousands of students in the 26th Senate District, there will be more buses on the roads and numerous students waiting for and riding on those buses. With large school districts comes long bus rides and many students riding on the bus for more than an hour, it’s our responsibility to pay extra attention on our daily commute and to obey the rules of the road.
Missouri law establishes specific rules and regulations for school buses on the road. All buses are equipped with flashing signals and a red stop sign that extends when the driver is picking up or dropping off children. On a two-way street, all drivers are required to stop when a bus is loading or unloading children. However, drivers are not required to stop on a divided highway with a median if they’re driving in the opposite direction of the bus. Drivers also do not have to stop when driving in four lanes of traffic and traveling in the opposite direction of the bus. Drivers should wait until the bus has started moving again or until the bus driver signals them before continuing on the road. Illegally passing a bus is a Class A misdemeanor in Missouri and could result in a hefty fine and, possibly, a suspension of one’s license.
Drivers should also stay at least 12 feet back from the school bus when children are loading and unloading. Kids waiting for the bus should also stay 12 feet back from the curb until the bus comes to a complete stop. Kids get on and exit the bus on the right side, so it is never safe to pass a school bus on the right side. There are a few other things for kids to remember when waiting for the bus. Kids should never speak to strangers at the bus stop and never get into the car with a stranger. While on the bus, kids should go directly to their seat and stay seated for the length of their ride to school. They should talk quietly so the driver can focus on their job, and they should never throw items around on the bus or out the windows.
School safety is also extremely important. Students should report any suspicious activity or any strange or unknown individuals who appear on school grounds to the proper school personnel. Students should also let school officials know of any threats or potential threats to students and teachers, whether it is on school property or at a school-sponsored event. Bullying is a serious issue in our schools and students should take the initiative and report any bullying to their teachers or other school personnel. This includes physical bullying on school grounds, but also cyberbullying or any threats made to students off school property. These types of threats can always be reported to law enforcement as well.
The start of the school year should be a fun and exciting time for all. As a community, we must all work together to ensure our students have the support they need to achieve their goals. Let’s all do our part as parents, teachers and as a community to foster the best possible environment for our kids to learn and grow.
Thank you for reading this weekly column. Please contact my office at (573) 751-3678 if you have any questions.