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Tragic School Dismissal Accident

It is indeed a sad day for teachers and principals across the country to learn about the tragic death of Susan Jordan who saved 6-10 children before being run over by a School Bus.  Susan put herself in harms way to save her students from the runaway school bus. The entire parent and teacher community at Amy Beverland Elementary are in shock and disbelief about the loss of a legend in their community. Ms Jordan had been a principal in the same school for over 22 years.

Lets take a step back and think about this tragedy. Could this have been prevented? Do we have systems and tools in place to manage the daily chaos, which happens in every school across the country? As the dismissal bell rings, an army of teachers come out of the classrooms and assume different responsibilities to make sure every child gets home safely. Be it snow, rain, sweltering heat, or a runaway bus, our teachers are in the front lines every single day making sure our children get home safely. The margin of error for this onerous task is non-existent. Yet, do we empower them with the right tools to manage the dismissal process? The teachers and principals have been led to their devices to manage this task. They have been using the same tools for decades now- Walkie-Talkies, Megaphones, Sticky notes, Car tags etc!

Could we do better as a society? Could we be leveraging technology to make our children safer and our teacher’s lives a little less stressful? Are we as parents and stakeholders in the education system doing enough to raise our voice in support of our teachers and students?

Many schools are in need of more secure and structured dismissal plans to protect students, faculty, and parents.The incident at Amy Beverland Elementary could have possibly been either prevented or less damaging. There are also many cases of children being picked up from school by the wrong person and being put in dangerous situations. A school with a structured dismissal process would have students in allocated areas at the end of the day after the bell. For example, students who are car riders should be waiting inside away from traffic until their parent pulls up to the loading area. All school buses should be correctly parked and not dismissed to leave until the appropriate children are loaded and the staff member gives the go ahead for the buses to pull away from the school— thus ensuring no students are in danger. Many schools are beginning to adopt more secure policies and use dismissal solution programs/companies to help increase safety at their schools.

These programs not only exist, but have proven to be very successful at the schools that use them. Decreasing the time it takes for parents to pick up their children, while also helping reduce chaos for school staff members and the surrounding traffic issues in communities. These programs also add security measures of confirming who is supposed to be picking up the child, all at the touch of a button on their phones and tablets. What is even more fascinating is that a study conducted by University of South Florida on the efficacy of a technology based after school dismissal system actually saves the school districts about $47K per year per school!

If it’s so readily available and can keep children safer, why don’t more schools use it? Many schools would like to be able to implement these programs, but suffer from lack of funding being allocated from their school district. There seems to be a large disconnect between those who make the budgetary decisions at school districts and those who are in the frontlines at the school trying to keep our children safe. It is not appropriate that schools have to beg for funding or take away from another piece of their budget to keep students safer during such a chaotic time. Schools are meant to be safe havens of learning, not a place of danger. We can only imagine that if a more organized process had been in place, Who knows, Ms Jordan could still be with us.

  • School dismissal overall can be unsafe at many schools children running around trying to find the right cars/buses all while people are driving though the same area. Children possibly getting in the incorrect cars. Parents not knowing for sure where their child is after the bell. This chaos also effects the focus of school staff, putting everyone at risk.
  • Existing School dismissal solutions offer structured dismissal plans, using available technology to manage student locations and allow staff members to be more organized, all at the press of a button. Parents can make changes from their phone to ensure their child is in the correct area at the correct time. Security measures allowing the school to differentiate between approved guardians and those who are not approved day to day. Emergency notifications can be sent directly to the parents phone with no delay. Notifications assuring parents their child has been picked up or is on their way home on the bus. These systems also reduce school liability by providing a digital record of all dismissals
  • Solutions are low cost, especially compared to the amount spent on outdated systems that schools currently use (voicemail systems, paper notes sent home, etc)
  • Finally: Those in charge of school budgets are either unaware of the benefits OR do not possesses the necessary leadership authority to implement the change. Those at the school dealing with these issues are often unable to get the support they need from district officials and the consequent funding to make the positive change necessary.

It is time we took some responsibility and demand for better technology enabled and safer environments for our children and teachers. It so happens that such a path actually saves the school districts serious money. The only commitment required is the desire to embrace positive change and a solid backing by our thought leadership at schools, which play a key role in implementing the change.

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