One of many potential dangers Kanawha County School bus drivers see on their routes could be living - or standing - right next to students as they wait to board the bus.
Brette Fraley, KCS Director of Transportation, says registered sex offenders are “laced” throughout Kanawha County.
Some of them are registered child sex offenders.
“They are everywhere,” Fraley said of registered sex offenders, while pointing to a map of Kanawha County.
Because of the overwhelming number of registered sex offenders in the county, Fraley said bus routes aren’t originally planned to avoid the areas in which offenders live.
However, bus stops can be changed, Fraley said.
“It’s just as simple as a phone call,” Fraley said. “We’ve changed bus stops based on someone who’s moved, a parent calls us, tells us they feel like maybe there’s a drug house near the area - we’ll change it for that. We have changed it for people who have called us about sex offenders.”
In more than 80 percent of cases, Fraley says they are able to change a bus route while still following West Virginia state code.
To ensure student safety, Fraley suggests parents or guardians stand with their students at the bus stop in the morning and be there to pick them up after school.
For parents who work in the afternoons, Fraley said the district can transport students to several after school care programs. To find a program, parents can call the Elkview School Bus Terminal.
Some KCS school bus drivers say parents should have a conversation with their children about what to do if - for some reason - a guardian who normally picks up their child from the bus stop can’t make it on a particular day.
“I’ve always instructed my kids that if they don’t feel comfortable getting off the bus, stay with me,” said KCS school bus driver Brian Newhouse. “If they’re with me, I know they’re safe. We’ll pull off somewhere along the road, we’ll call home or we’ll radio the garage and let them know we’re still on the bus.”
Fraley also suggests parents participate in the tag program, an ID system that could thwart any potential predators and keep students safe.
“That’s why we’re here. That’s the only reason we’re here,” Fraley said. “At the end of the day the whole idea is to get the students to and from school safely.”