School bus safety meeting held

On Sept. 28, the P.E.I. Home and School Federation and CUPE 1145 organized a school bus safety concerned stakeholders meeting to address the crucial need of protecting students on Prince Edward Island.

With approximately 300 school buses on Island roadways each day, school bus drivers report that drivers are passing slowing or stopped school buses while the bus signal lights are flashing nearly daily.

Infractions can occur in all kinds of weather, are most common in September and October, and are more likely to happen in cities or along busy highways (e.g., Highway 2).

The drivers who are committing these violations cross age, cultural, and gender groups. While the back of each school bus displays clear signage indicating that the penalty for passing a bus with flashing signal lights is 12 demerit points, a 3-month license suspension, and a maximum $5000 fine. However, stakeholders reported that last year there were 200 reports of school bus passing incidents, Island-wide. In Summerside, only there were 38 reports with 17 convictions. P.E.I. has the highest conviction rate in Canada. However, the maximum fine has never been issued. In addition, ticketed drivers may be convicted on lesser charges of distracted driving (e.g., cell phone use) rather than the offense of passing a school bus.

The first consensus among the stakeholders is that school bus passing violations happen without malicious intent – no one leaves their house in the morning to harm a child. Factors including driver inattention, impairment, speed, and lack of awareness of the meaning of bus signals were postulated as reasons for the high number of incidents of vehicles passing school buses when their lights are flashing, and the bus is slowing or stopped.

The second consensus point is that we need to know what and why this is happening and how to keep this from happening before we face a child’s critical injury or death. One of the key action items from the discussion is to set up a school bus safety task force to recommend the next steps to the government.

Invited stakeholders included: Education and Lifelong Learning, Justice and Crown Attorney’s office, Health and Wellness, Registrar Motor Vehicles, Highway Safety Division, Charlottetown and Summerside Policing Services, RCMP, Public Schools Branch, Mayor’s Charlottetown and Summerside, CUPE Local 1145, students and PEI Home and School Federation.

Parents, students, teachers, principals, custodians, and other school staff attended the semi-annual meeting, Oct. 21 at Gulf Shore School. A panel of experts presented topics ranging from reconciliation, internet safety, gender identity 101, and brave/spaces for 2SLGBTQIA+ students. Local homes and schools are encouraged to continue learning on these important topics in home and school communities.

Speakers included Scott Allen, youth program coordinator, and Anastasia Preston, trans community outreach coordinator with PEERS Alliance, Cst. Phil Skeffington, RCMP, and Julie Pellissier-Lush, poet laureate and L’nuey knowledge keeper.

Norbert Carpenter, director of the Public Schools Branch, shared an update on 2021 back to school processes, the Covid-19 outbreak at West Royalty Elementary, and the gradual launch of PowerSchool, new online application for teachers and parents to monitor attendance and achievements.

Home and Schools may apply for a Parent Leadership Project grant up to $1000. Project topics are to educate school communities in areas that impact families, such as health and wellness, diversity, cultural awareness, aid parents in helping children with math homework, literacy, and more. The submission deadline is Nov. 30.

The Federation appreciates all the additional work that school custodians and staff are doing to ensure schools are safe and ready for learning. Thank you to the new P.E.I. School Food Team across P.E.I. that prepared and delivered 116,968 meals in the first two months of school!

For more information about this column and its content, contact the federation office at 902-0664/1-800-916-0663 /