Picture Of Crowded School Bus Raises Questions Of Safety

Posted at 10:51 PM, Sep 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-06 07:34:07-04

MIDDLEVILLE, Mich. — A West Michigan parent is outraged after her son and other students were allegedly forced to sit in the aisle of their school bus because, she claims, it was overloaded.

Superintendent Tom Enslen of the Thornapple Kellogg School District said he is aware of the issue and said it’s a common problem across the state.

One of our viewers sent us a picture and video taken on the school bus on September 5.  We showed the video to the superintendent for his reaction to what the parents see as a over-crowded bus. (The images were blurred on the air and online to protect the identities of students.)

Most of 73 Thornapple Kellogg Middle and High School students can be seen in the viewer-provided picture crowded together, some students even sitting in the aisle of a bus bound for school in Middleville.

Superintendent Enslen said the problem of over capacity tends to crop up this time each year as the district tries to determine just how many of the students who signed up to ride the bus will actually ride the bus.

“Yesterday we were a couple students over,” Enslen said.  “And not knowing what we are going to get when we show up, we knew we had to re-tool.”

The bus is actually four students under the its capacity of 77 students, Enslen said.   The superintendent said the transportation director boarded the bus and did a head count of the students.

To reach capacity would mean three students to every seat on the bus.  The federal guidelines for school bus safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said three to a seat should apply to elementary school students.  The NHTSA recommends two to a seat for high school students.

When we showed the picture of the crowded bus to the superintendent, he said, “It looks busy.  But I suspect you are going to find that on most school buses in most school districts with most routes.”

We also sent the video to an independent law enforcement agency. After reviewing the clip they said, “We’ve never seen anything like this.  It’s a complete hazard.  It’s unsafe for the students as well as the driver.”

Enslen said, “With the picture, it may have looked like it was an overloaded bus when in fact they just needed to be reminded to get their rear-ends in the seats.”

The superintendent said he does have a short-term solution, “Our transportation director would show up with his van, be there in the event that we had too many students, and then transport those numbers via the van.”

He said in this case, the van wasn’t needed as they were four students under capacity.

“What happens tomorrow?  We’re certainly going to be watching and monitoring this one closely,” said Enslen.

The viewer who sent the video to FOX 17 said she wanted to remain anonymous for her children’s sake.  She told us this issue of overloaded buses in her district was brought to her attention in April and she tried to get action from the district in April.

The superintendent told FOX 17 that this is the first time he is hearing about this specific complaint from a parent.

If your child is experiencing similar issues on the bus, please tip us off by filling out the form below: