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Bus driver calls for laptop ban, says devices could become ‘plastic projectiles’ in crash

Bus driver calls for laptop ban

Robert Darby, a longtime bus driver for Decatur County Community Schools, said unsecured laptops could become "plastic projectiles" during a sudden stop or crash.

GREENSBURG, Ind. (WISH) — A longtime bus driver for Decatur County Community Schools urged administrators to ban laptops on all school buses, citing safety concerns.

The school district has no standardized electronics restrictions on buses. It’s “up to the bus drivers” to determine which devices to allow on their vehicles, the superintendent said Thursday.

Robert Darby, who began driving for the district in 2007, attempted to ban electronics on his bus because unsecured devices could “fly through the air” and injure students in the event of a sudden stop or crash, he said.

“My big concern on the bus is the open carry of the laptop computers,” Darby told News 8. “I feel like it’s a 4.5-pound plastic projectile.”

His daily pick-up and drop-off routes include portions of U.S. 421. Darby frequently encounters reckless drivers on the highway and has to “hit the brakes” on his school bus, he said.

“I have stop arm violations weekly,” he added. “I have people passing in no-passing zones daily.”

Although he had never been involved in an accident that resulted in an unsecured laptop injuring a child, Darby called for proactive — rather than reactive — policy change.

“What I explained to my students was, ‘If I take your laptop and I slam it against my windshield with everything I’ve got — or I hit you in the back of the head with it, with everything I’ve got — what would happen?’ It would hurt,” he told News 8. “And then I tell them I cannot throw it as fast as it would come forward in a 40 mph crash.”

Darby went “rogue” when administrators didn’t appear to share his safety concerns, he said, and attempted to enforce his electronics ban by “suspending” a student he accused of repeatedly violating it.

School officials told him he had no grounds to temporarily ban the student from riding his bus, he said. Darby relented and continued to pick up the student.

“[The bus driver] wanted [the student] to have the laptop in her book bag; however, she did not have room in her book back,” Dr. Jarrod Burns, the superintendent of Decatur County Community Schools, said Thursday in an email to News 8. “He then told her if the laptop was sitting in her lap that she would be suspended off of the bus. This seemed like an extreme punishment for a student sitting in their seat, minding their own business, with their laptop sitting in their lap, turned off, so he was overruled.”

Samantha Legere, a mother of three whose son is enrolled in the Decatur County school district, said she also had safety concerns involving laptops on school buses. However, most students who use laptops on buses are using school-issued devices to finish their homework, she noted.

“Homework just piles up on them,” Legere said. “They don’t have much time if they’re in sports or after-school activities…I think it would be easier for the kids to do it on the bus.”

Another parent was more concerned about the lack of seat belts than the use of laptops on school buses.

“Installing seat belts should be the first thing they do if they’re really worried about safety,” he said.

The district has not discussed implementing a new electronics policy on school buses, administrators said.