Student Well-Being

How a Persistent Student Sounded the Alarm on Unsafe School Bus Drivers

By Evie Blad — June 23, 2017 1 min read
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A smart and persistent student journalist caught dozens of school buses on camera as they rolled through stop signs. Now his Pennsylvania school system is using his report to retrain its bus drivers.

This story has everything: student voice, a super-engaged kid, and service learning all wrapped into one. And Ricky Sayer—a senior at Harriton High School in Lower Merion, Pa.—could easily see the relevance of his work. Bus drivers had started changing their ways before he even finished his report.

Sayer, who plans to study journalism in college, has produced weekly “Ricky Reports” broadcasts throughout high school, Philly Voice reports. For his final report, he decided to explore a troubling trend he’d noticed when leaving school: streams of school buses failing to stop at a stop sign, sometimes causing near collisions with the cars they cut off. The issue was particularly of interest, his report noted, because the district’s transportation team had recently won an award for bus safety.

So Sayer hid in the bushes, recording on seven random days over a month and a half and found that 108 of 189 buses failed to make a complete stop, Philly Voice reports. From the report:

Sayer said 57 percent of the buses he observed leaving Harriton High School didn’t stop. He even took trips to film at nearby Gladwyne Elementary School and Welsh Valley Middle School, where he said he found 67 percent and 88 percent didn’t stop, respectively. Lower Merion safety foreman Richard Segal told Sayer the buses should be stopping, and after being presented with the video, transportation supervisor Uldis Vilcins said he would make the drivers “aware of this deviation from correct procedures.” Towards the end of his reporting, when Sayer stood more visible to the drivers than before, he said noticed that they were actually stopping. He later found out drivers had received a text advising them to stop.

The district asked Sayer for his footage, which it plans to use as a training video for drivers, his report says. Check out his full report below:

What Research Says About Engaging Students

While he’s clearly a pretty self-motivated student, Sayer’s work offers a lot of takeaways for educators looking for engaging assignment ideas. As Education Week has reported previously, students feel more engaged and motivated at school when they see that their ideas and concerns matter. That means adults should not only listen to students through student voice work; they should also make changes as a result of what they hear. Students are also more self-motivated when they see that their work is relevant and connected to “real world” concerns. Sayer’s report clearly checks all of those boxes.


Related reading about student engagement, student journalism:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.