Dale hostage incident prompts reminder

Published 12:05 am Thursday, January 31, 2013


The shooting of a Dale County Schools bus driver on Tuesday and a young student being taken hostage, prompted at least one local school system to remind its bus drivers to be extra cautious when picking up or dropping off school children.

Bob Harry, Andalusia City Schools transportation director, said he sent a memo to bus drivers Wednesday morning reminding them to be alert in their routes of suspicious activity.

“This incident heightened our attention that bus drivers are vulnerable,” Harry said. “We have radios for our drivers to use.”

Harry said that state law prohibits any unauthorized person from stepping foot on a school bus.

“We have signs posted on our buses that say, ‘Unauthorized Entry Illegal. Any person who attempts to enter a school bus without prior authorization of the driver or other appropriate school official and refuses to leave will be subject to prosecution that may result in fines of up to $2,000 and up to one year in jail,’” Harry said.

Additionally, ACS has a policy that prohibits parents from coming on the bus to talk about matters that are typically discussed in a parental conference.

“We remind our drivers and send this policy to all parents who use our bus system,” he said. “If a parent approaches, drivers won’t open the door. Parents have to go to the bus driver’s window side to speak with them. Then, we’ll set up a conference at the school.”

Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart said their bus drivers are trained yearly in safety procedures.

“We have specific protocols our drivers are to follow,” he said. “It is against the law for anyone to attempt to board a school bus without authorization. We fully enforce this provision.”

Smithart said OCS drivers’ first priority is the safety of the students.

“Our hearts go out to the family of the driver who gave his life doing that,” he said.

Harry said ACS’s No.1 goal is to make sure students are safe.

As of press time Wednesday, the man who allegedly shot and killed bus driver Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, was holed up in a bunker after abducting a 5-year-old or 6-year-old child, where they have been since just after 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Dale County Schools and Ozark City Schools are closed the rest of the week.