Following are answers to some of the more frequently asked questions regarding pupil transportation in North Carolina:
Q: How long are students allowed to ride the school bus each way in North Carolina?
A: There is no state law regarding the length of a bus ride. North Carolina has a wide range of geography across the state and the diversity of rural and urban areas results in a very wide range of bus ride times. Some rural counties have an average student ride time of over 50 minutes while some small city LEAs have an average ride time as low as 15 minutes. Individual LEAs may have local policies that require a maximum ride time. Therefore, here at ACE Academy, students ride time is not to excess 70 minutes.
Q: Are charter schools required to provide transportation to and from school?
A: No. Charter schools are required to have a plan to ensure that transportation is not a barrier for any student; however, the school does not have to provide transportation for every student. Students that DO NOT have a completed, signed copy, of the “Transportation Authorization Form” they WILL NOT be able to ride the bus. Seating on the bus is also limited, therefore, first come first serve.
Q: The bus driver told me I am not allowed to get on the bus. Is that true?
A: G.S. 115C-245(b) states that the driver “shall have complete authority over and responsibility for the operation of the bus and the maintaining of good order and conduct upon such bus.” Further, any person boarding the bus after being told not to by the driver is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor according to G.S. 14-132.2.
Q: Are students allowed to stand on the school bus or to sit in the aisles?
A: Absolutely not. State Board of Education policy requires that seating be provided for each student on the bus and that standees are strictly prohibited. Further, each student must be completely seated in the school bus seat - with a padded seat back behind him and a padded seat back in front of him. The same policy requires that the capacity of the bus cannot be exceeded. Students that are constantly in violation of standing on the bus, will be suspended from the bus indefinitely.
Q: Why don’t school buses have seat belts?
A: School buses afford students the safest form of transportation to and from school. This has been validated by federal crash testing and research by the National Academy of Sciences. School buses have to meet rigid federal construction standards for the sides and top of the bus, fuel tanks and inside of each bus. The thick padded seats and seat-backs provide a passive form of crash protection known as “compartmentalization.” This padding, combined with the placement of the seating area high above the impact zone (with most other vehicles), offers a protection that has resulted in an unmatched record of passenger safety.
Especially for small students, lap belts can be more harmful than helpful. In our passenger cars, lap belts are being phased out. Only recently – in the early 2000’s – have lap-shoulder seat belts been available in school buses. In North Carolina, thirteen buses with these 3-point belts are being evaluated. Further, the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force has been directed by the General Assembly to study safety restraints on school buses and to report back by May 1, 2008. Adding lap/shoulder belts is very expensive and evidence to date suggests that all but the youngest students are reluctant to wear them.