When a school bus is involved in a crash there are about a thousand things that need to be addressed immediately. We need to know how bad the crash was, who was involved, why the bus crashed, and do children need to be sent to the hospital? These are just the beginning of what needs to be assessed.
Then, there is what the media wants to know: who was involved, why did the bus crash, do children need to be sent to the hospital, and why were they not required to wear seatbelts on the school bus? That last question concerns me. I have been raised in a school bus filled world and as part of a privately owned school bus company. I feel that this question has caused a lot of anger and confusion over the years. I have never understood why it was so hard to understand. Personally, when they tally the votes for putting seatbelts in school buses they can put my vote firmly on the NO side of the board.
No, I’m not against safety. No, I’m not against improving our school buses. However, I don’t believe that putting seatbelts in school buses is necessarily the right or best way to increase safety for children on board. What I do believe is that in the last 23 years of my life I have been surrounded by people and an industry who bleed yellow. These people strive and demand to make school buses the safest they can be and they agree that the research and the testing does not tell us that seatbelts will always save the lives lost in past crashes.
I bring this up because of the recent school bus accident in Chattanooga that killed 7 children. Unfortunately, that accident was the fault of the driver’s poor reasoning and lack of training. As far as accidents go, this one was completely avoidable. The media asked their same questions and the answer they were given is that a local government has passed the first stage of having seatbelts required on school buses as of 2019. I don’t agree but if this makes the community feel better about this accident then they will do what they need to do.
I would have preferred an overhaul on their training program, an overhaul on their discipline program, an overhaul on the staff. They are the ones who failed those children by not following up with the driver and they are the ones responsible for this loss of life. I think the change needs to start with people; in this case the school bus did nothing wrong.
School bus companies needs to invest in exceptional driver training and follow up. This will make a noticeable difference in student safety.
Kari conducted an interview in April with Tim Hennagir, Managing Editor of the Monticello Times, to discuss her book and school transportation technology. In this audio clip, Kari discusses her quest for knowledge in the school transportation industry and how that shaped her in her career.
5.0 out of 5 stars
Worth the read!
Bychaseron April 15, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition Very interesting book and until reading it I didn’t really know much about this tragedy as we
were not members of the Monticello community yet. My heart goes out to all those affected
by this horrific event. And for all Kari has endured in her life. My own kids ride Hoglund
busses daily. My one request voiced to Kari in 2009 concerning a drop-off location was
granted very graciously and I have always remembered her comment and how nice she
was about it. Thank you for your passion in working to keep our kids safe and for all your
hard work throughout the years.
Good luck with your future plans!
This is from a community member who had not even lived in Monticello, MN during the
crash but had heard about it through the grapevine. I know this accident was big news. It left a lasting impression on the community and still affects them today. As someone who was raised in Monticello and worked for Hoglund transportation I know how greatly this affected me. I appreciate that this story is able to help others who only heard the absolute worst! No one will remember the day the same way but
here is a new side to the national story. Read it. — Haleigh
The first talk about the book, Unspoken Sorrow: Whispers From a Broken Heart takes place this month!
Kari will be presenting book and crash topics to the Shareholders group on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Minnesota State Director of Pupil Transportation, Lt. Brain Reu, extended the invitation for the 45-minute event.
She will be speaking to transportation operators, trainers, and other officials. Kari is looking forward to sharing the story and believes it will help increase student safety.
The talk will cover the events of April 10th, 1997, some commentary about the aftermath, and information about how those events led to the development of JAK the App. There will be ample time for attendee questions.
Below is an Amazon review of Kari Hoglund Kounkel’s book Unspoken Sorrow: Whispers From a Broken Heart. Kari is the creator and founder of JAK the App. The book tells her story of the tragic school bus accident in Monticello, MN in 1997. For more information about the book, visit myunspokensorrow.com or Unspoken Sorrow Kindle Version . Please share your thoughts on the book.
The author provides an account of a community’s tragic bus accident from a perspective not many would ever get the opportunity to know about. I found this perspective interesting. The author had an administrative position with the bus company with a professional role to fulfill and yet also had a human side that she had to attempt to deal with. She too, was a member of the Monticello, MN community having been born and raised there. It’s wasn’t an easy task to separate the two roles in her life and this book explains things from her perspective. Regulations, advice from legal counsel and pending insurance issues prohibited her from discussing the details of the bus accident. Many will not understand what the author had to endure under these circumstances and she is sharing her side of the story. There is understanding within these pages. The book is only 78 pages but the information adds light to a tragic event that is very difficult to process or understand. For many, the emotional traumas of this bus accident will be life long.
Unspoken Sorrow is a story known at one point by the country. Kari brings forth her side, a view point left untold. Her sorrow left unspoken is what has driven her to become all that she is today and will result in an industry changing application. I take the voices remarking on her experience seriously and in turn they are supporting her and her right to finally, after 20 years of near silence, speak.
The kindle version of Unspoken Sorrow: Whispers From a Broken Heart was released at Amazon on April 10, the 20th anniversary of the bus crash. In this powerful book, Kari Kounkel shares her perspective and grief from the bus crash, as well as the effects it had on her life. Kari shares her knowledge of the school transportation industry and how these events led to the development of JAK the App. The book is a story of death, recovery, and redemption. The print version will be available this summer.
An article published in School Bus Fleet’s April/May 2017 edition explained 5 ways to prepare for serious and unexpected school bus accidents and incidents.
I want to touch on the last topic they covered, donating a school bus. An old, retired school bus is not able to safely transport children to school, but it is the perfect vessel for emergency training drills! In my years working for a privately owned school bus company we ran many, many types of field training events. I always loved being a part of those training exercises and assisting in the set up. The problem was that we were not able to “damage out” a bus every few months or even every few years.
I do remember one year, we were able to have a drill with local law enforcement and fire fighters. They took our drivers through multiple exercises with the buses we had retired. It was amazing and the amount of experience and knowledge we learned from this event was priceless. Priceless, but expensive. I say this not to demean the idea or stress how hard it can be to accomplish in a small district or family owned school bus company. I say this because even though the cost was immense the reward was worth so much more. We were able to see how the officials reacted to a bus on fire and on its side. We were able to attempt to evacuate such a bus. The action of just maneuvering oneself inside a tipped bus really showed the reality of the difficulties involved in such an event. This difficulty is exacerbated if the bus is on fire or after a dramatic crash has occurred.
I wish that every district could experience such training and benefit from these personal experiences. If possible, having multiple districts work together and providing more of this type of training at regional conferences would be amazing! I love this idea and I can say from experience that it is one of the most rewarding types of field training I have witnessed.
Training is the key to a successful experience. It doesn’t matter what field, job, or sport you do. If your training is lacking then your reaction time and process in an actual event will be dismal and may not be what is best for your driver or the children involved. –Haleigh
School Bus Fleet published an article in their April/May 2017 edition that flushed out 5 ways to aid in preparing for some of the scariest situations that could occur on a school bus.
The first situation depicts a hostile boarding the school bus.
These are scary, hard to tackle, and near unthinkable situations. Having your school bus boarded by anyone is unacceptable. A good result is having them leave before they are even fully boarded; a bad result ends in someone seriously hurt. I have read too many stories about parents having boarded their child’s school bus. They always have a reason and no matter the outcome it is always the same, “I was protecting my child”. The parent may not board with violent intentions and often they do it out of love and fear for their own child. But, they are blind to how they are putting every other child at risk by doing so.
I believe that JAK may aid in such a situation. JAK puts high emphasis on training and awareness! Awareness not just for the driver, but also for parents and their children. I believe that having prior knowledge of outcomes and how such a situation affects everyone involved would prompt the parents to take a different approach. At least, I hope it might. JAK would also be able to alert the parents of the other children involved and the school. The report would easily come together and the mess of such a situation can be minimized.
A parent who boards is different from an assailant. If a school bus is boarded by someone with ill intentions diffusion is still the first step, but talking about the situation may not be enough. School Bus Fleet suggests that the school district or school bus company run field exercises with professionals. This may not be a realistic suggestion based on the cost.
Regardless of what we do, this type of thing happens. It is scary, hard to tackle, and so darn near unthinkable that we often shove it to the far reaches of our minds! I don’t agree with leaving a driver ill prepared, and I know that knowledge is power. JAK aims to provide its users with both! With our focus on gathering and presenting information in effective and efficient formats, JAK is set to change the school bus industry. In doing so, we aim to reduce the risks of being unprepared.
A school bus is a special vehicle. Kari, the founder of JAK the App, considers the school bus a miracle of modern engineering. As part of my responsibilties with JAK the App, I research accidents and come across only the worst information in the news. I see behavior in my new town from bus drivers and regular drivers on the road that frightens me.
Recently, I was riding in the passenger seat on the way to the grocery store. I saw a school bus stopped on the median of the main road in my town. My view of the bus was only for a moment since I was three lanes away and on the opposite side of traffic. But, I could tell that the bus wasn’t empty and even with its hazards on and its stop arm out, other drivers were flying past it in the lane immediately beside the bus. I do not know what the bus was doing there. I didn’t see any other vehicles, I didn’t see any cops or smoke, just those flashing lights and the stop arm. I became infuriated at how drivers were passing by the bus without slowing down. When I pointed it out to my driver, he simply acknowledged it and kept going.
It is times like these that I remember that normal people don’t notice the big yellow bus like my family does. This terrifies me! School buses are an almost sacred entity to me, they carry the lives of children in their bright yellow carriages. To think that people would just zoom past without a thought tells me two things. One, even though for over 15 years the school bus has been proven to be the safest mode of transportation to school, we need to continue to improve safety and visibility of the bus. Two, no matter how well we train our drivers, our students, or our staff; the risk to children will never decrease until the public is properly trained as well.
Something needs to be done. The news only broadcasts what the industry should do and not what the public needs to be aware of. People need to be on the lookout for that brilliant yellow bus and take heed. When a driver decides to zoom around the bus after it caused them to stop for the third time in a row, they need to know exactly who they are about to hurt and what the consequences will be for everyone involved.
DATTCO is a family run business that puts safety first!
While school bus driver Randy Kronick was driving his usual route, DATTCO safety procedures allowed him to be prepared for the worst. Thanks to such procedures he was able to save the life of one of his young female students.
When it came time for this female student to disembark from the school bus a speeding SUV broke the law when it failed to stop for the buses flashing lights and extended stop sign. In doing so, it nearly hit the student who was saved due to Kronick’s quick thinking and reflexes while pulling the student out of the way.
No word yet on if the driver of the SUV has been caught. High praises to Kronick and the safety procedures insisted upon by DATTCO! Way to go!