School bus drivers learn how to handle active shooter threats

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MOBERLY - School bus drivers in mid-Missouri learned how to protect students if an active shooter or armed intruder threatens a bus.

Drivers were taught how to recognize possible threats to the bus and children; strategies to prevent a bus takeover; and ways to keep children safer if a takeover or hostage situation happens. 

"I've thought about it a lot," bus driver Carl Sanders said. "Hopefully it won't happen. It's hard to say, though, how you would react if something would happen." 

Sanders said, after the training, he thinks he is better prepared, because the training makes people aware of some of the options they have in the moment.

The Randolph County Sheriff's Department hosted Tuesday's training event at Moberly High School. Randolph County Sheriff Mark Nichols said there have been active shooter trainings in schools for more than 10 years and it's important to also prepare bus drivers.

"We want to keep our children as safe as possible," Nichols said. "The children are on the school bus more than two times a day, a lot of times, then that's a place that an active shooter drill or education needs to be."

Gary Moore, from the Missouri Center for Education Safety, lead the presentation. Moore is a retired Missouri State Highway Patrol captain and provided negotiation tips and physical tactics for bus drivers to use. 

"You'll do a lot more talking than you are fighting, so they need to really work on their communications skills," Moore said. "We're talking about listening, we're talking about how to talk to somebody, how to deescalate things, those are important." 

Moore presented tips from his work in law enforcement to help bus drivers spot things that just don't look right. Bus drivers learned to drive around the block if they believe they are being followed; keep an eye out for suspicious vehicles; and to wait for younger children to get inside their house. 

"That is your primary priority. Get the kid to school on time and get them home safely," Sanders said. "We always watch real close to make sure somebody's home."

Moore said law enforcement and schools have been very good about increasing the safety of children inside of schools, but the killing of a school bus driver in Alabama in 2013 identified the need for bus drivers to be trained as well. 

"Preparedness is everything. If you don't have a plan and something happens, it's not going to go well," Moore said.