Irene Davis has driven school buses for Hillsborough County for almost 20 years. But these days she doubts the district's commitment to safety for special-needs students.
Drivers do not get enough training in how to transport children with medical needs, she said. Drivers with even less training are asked to fill in for those who normally transport exceptional student education students.
And buses sometimes lack the equipment to secure wheelchairs.
"They should not allow ESE buses to be on the road without the proper equipment," Davis said Monday during a focus group meeting at Spoto High School.
The meeting, which attracted about 40 drivers, was the first of eight planned this month. Some drivers agreed to be named and quoted. Others chose to speak anonymously.
The sessions are motivated in part by allegations from four transportation trainers who made their concerns public last month in a memo to School Board members. The trainers say not enough is done to protect medically fragile students — and that, when mistakes are made, employees are told not to document them.
Some of the drivers' concerns were monetary. Drivers earn an average of $17,023 a year, according to payroll records. Some have been on the job more than 30 years.