PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It is a daily routine of trust. Our children climb onto school buses and parents believe in the highly-trained professionals behind the wheel.
State-mandated bus driver training is extensive, and Judy Haluka is not upset about what drivers are trained to do, but rather what they are not trained to do.
“At a minimum, they should be CPR-certified and it would be nice if they were first aid-certified,” Haluka said.
Haluka is an emergency medical professional who discovered what she views as a training void by accident. A supervisor brought her in to teach drivers what an EpiPen is for and how to use it if a child has an allergic reaction on the bus.
The seeds of her concerns were planted almost immediately and didn’t stop with first aid and CPR.
“As I was telling them to call 911, he corrected me and said, ‘No, our policy is don’t forget that you have to call back to the dispatcher first,’” said Haluka.
Mike Bacco, the manager of the First Student garage in Ross Township, explained what his colleague meant.
“If there’s a medical emergency of any type on the bus itself, the drivers are instructed to call in on the radio and we call 911,” said Haluka. “They give us their position and where they are, and we tell them not to move and wait for 911 to get there.”
That policy is common among bus companies, but not at Monark where owner Mark Schmitt says it’s 911 first.
“You’re dealing with seconds, and we want if there’s a situation or an accident, we want people to get on-board who can take care of anyone who is injured,” said Schmitt. “So, absolutely, 911 is first.”
Monark does a bit of first aid training.
However, on the issue of CPR training, Schmitt says, “I really truly don’t think it’s necessary.”
He backs his view with 40 years of experience.
“I can remember two times ever when CPR might have been needed on a particular route, and it wasn’t for the student, it was for the driver,” Schmitt said.
Parents we talked to just assumed it was already required.
“I think that’s ridiculous,” said India Childers, of Brighton Heights. “My daughter has a medical condition involving her heart and the thought that no one on that bus would be able to help her is ridiculous.”
Schmitt says a pre-existing condition is different.
“If a school district requests additional CPR training on a particular driver, we will make that available; but across the board, every single driver, no,” said Schmitt.
“In Pennsylvania, it is not required; and therefore, First Student doesn’t normally require that training in addition to what the state requires unless the specific contract requires that, and then we will work that in,” added Bacco.
Haluka has state Rep. Mark Mustio’s attention.
“I was basically shocked and appalled,” said Rep. Mustio. “It seems to me that first of all our bus drivers need to be trained in CPR, and most importantly, should be required to call 911.”
Rep. Mustio has passed the issue the up food chain to Gov. Tom Corbett.
“My suspicion is that if one child ended up dead, you would be hearing about this, and suddenly bus companies would be interested in CPR and first aid classes.
Haluka joined the KDKA Radio Morning News with Larry Richert and John Shumway to further discuss her concerns with bus drivers not being trained in basic first aid.
“Most of the children on the bus, if you’re talking middle school or high school are CPR trained, so you would have to rely on the children to save each other, which is just ludicrous,” Haluka said.
You can hear the whole interview here: