JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Cellphone video given to Action News Jax shows students crammed onto a Duval County school bus including some standing while the bus is moving.
“I’m thinking about what if something bad happens? What if a car hits a bus? What if a bus hits a car? Then you got kids flying everywhere,” Vazquez said. “If you get into an accident and somebody dies, you can’t bring that child back.”
A Florida Highway Patrol Sergeant who watched the video shared the same concerns. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 207 crashes involving a school bus in Duval in 2021. 2022 statistics are not yet available.
Under state law, school buses are required to have enough seat belts for three elementary students per seat, and two high school students.
However, a representative for FHP, said it’s up to each district or private contractor to enforce those rules.
According to Duval County Public Schools’ bus code, students should take their assigned seat, buckle their seat belt, wear it the entire trip, face forward, and remain in their seats until getting off.
Vazquez said that’s not what she saw in the video. “They should be safe riding the bus home. Not worrying about all these students on the bus,” she told Action News Jax’s, Robert Grant.
At the start of the school year, Superintendent Dr. Diana Green said the district’s two private bus contractors were short a combined 50 drivers.
A veteran driver for Student Transportation of America, which operates the bus seen in the cell video, said they are still short on drivers and buses. He also said the video is the result of multiple routes being combined into one bus.
The district said that’s not what led to the overcrowding seen.
“We’ve been very transparent with families about the impact of the bus driver shortage on transportation service, but this video represents something different,” a representative said in an emailed statement.
“Duval County Public Schools would never intentionally implement a route that would result in an overcrowded bus. The video demonstrates why it is important for all families to register for transportation. Rider registration gives us the information needed to adjust routes and load buses safely. It is highly likely that this bus includes riders either unregistered or ineligible for transportation.”
The district said it would investigate the situation.
Action News Jax also reached out to STA, which was also looking into it.
The district also contracts Durham School Services, which does not operate the bus seen in the video. But the company said it is short just more than 20 drivers and continues to “diligently recruit drivers and is offering a $3,000 bonus for those who hold a CDL license. Safety is our number one priority, and our drivers always ensure that there are no overcrowding situations before they start their route. To prevent overcrowding situations from occurring, we make sure to work with the district to coordinate and assign routes.”
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