Dear Dawg: I’m a bus driver. I’ve got 57 kids on my bus. I’ve got notes for 34 of them that they have to sit in the front row. What do I do—stack them up?

I got this real question from a bus driver one day many years ago, and was completely stumped.  Hmmm—I don’t know what you do in a case like that.  The question made me realize what practical problems bus drivers encounter.  I suppose that if you have 34 out of 57 kids who are supposed to sit up front you have a glitch in your system.  We can’t be making promises that we can’t keep.

Bus drivers play a crucial role.  They are Ambassadors of First Impressions.  While their primary responsibility is to transport the kids safely, they also set the tone for the school day.  A warm and personal greeting by the bus driver starts the day off well.

Unless you have an aide on the bus, the driver is left alone, the only adult supervising a large number of kids.  That’s a very tough job.  One thing you should be sure about is that the bus driver has adequate information about any special needs or concerns involving the students.

Can confidential information be shared with the bus driver?  Yes.  Take a look at your Policy FL Local. This is where your district has defined the terms “school officials” and “legitimate educational interest.”  Under FERPA, you can share information from educational records with a “school official” who has a “legitimate educational interest.”  The typical FL Local adopted by most districts defines “school official” broadly enough to cover all school employees; and “legitimate educational interest” means, among other things, that the employee is working with a student.

Bus drivers will meet that definition. They are responsible for safety and order on the bus. They are responsible for preventing acts of bullying or harassment. To do their jobs well, they may need to know some things about some of the students. For example: does Amber have a behavior plan that the driver needs to know about? Does Carlos have special medical conditions that might be important?

Of course there is a lot of information about students that the bus driver does not have a “legitimate educational interest” in.  The driver does not need to know who is on the honor roll, who just flunked the math test, or who got sent to the principal’s office today.  The driver does not need to  know who is in a special ed or 504 program, unless there are implications for the time on the bus.  So the transportation director and the principal should come up with some guidelines for the type of information that should be shared.

Drivers also need to have some training on FERPA, particularly to make sure they understand the duty to maintain confidentiality.

We can help with this. If you have a need for training of your bus drivers on some of these issues, or help with coming up with a protocol for the sharing of information, give us a call at the law firm.

Just don’t ask me what to do with those 34 kids.


File this one under: CONFIDENTIALITY