The Richmond County school bus drivers' union has voted against a safety program it previously supported, saying safety should be mandatory rather than voluntary.
Transportation Workers Union Local 239 President Sallie Thomas said Monday that members voted against the rodeo safety program when the school system surveyed drivers because the survey asked about voluntary participation in the program. The union, however, wanted school officials to require the training.
According to a report given to the school board last week, only one of 34 responses showed an interest in voluntarily doing the program. About 200 surveys were handed out to determine drivers' interest.
Driver Ronnie Reddy, who has been bringing up the rodeo during recent board meetings, said the survey was "doomed to fail."
"It's not going to happen if you're not going to pay people," he said, stressing that he wants the safety training to be mandatory. "If you make it mandatory, they would have to show up."
Drivers voluntarily have performed the safety training since 1987, said Mr. Reddy, who volunteers as the school system's rodeo instructor. The number of participants has dwindled to two or three last year, but the need for the training remains as important as ever, he said.
A pupil was run over by a bus last year, and a bus ran over a pupil's foot in a separate incident before that, he said.
"The point is that doing this increases people's awareness and safety," Mr. Reddy said.
Rodeo training is "absolutely important" and "imperative," said Beverly Skipper, the transportation director for Henry County schools and president of the Pupil Transportation Safety Competition Foundation.
"It's not a requirement (in most school systems), but most school systems required their drivers to go through range training," Ms. Skipper said.
The distinction is the rodeo is a competition for drivers to hone the skills they learn during range training, such as stopping, maneuvering, parking and loading and unloading children.
"Obviously, the more training you get, the better driver you are," Ms. Skipper said. "A lot of the reasons drivers don't participate is that schools don't require it."
She isn't aware of any school system paying drivers to participate.
Mr. Reddy said he will continue to pursue mandatory participation in the rodeo.
The survey report will be presented to the school board during a committee meeting at 4 p.m. today.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.