P. O. BOX 2120
October 17, 1997


TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Richard T. La Pointe
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: School Bus Handrails

  Now that the new school year has begun, I want to remind you
  of an important issue related to pupil transportation. 
  School bus handrails continue to present a threat to pupil
  safety.  It is important that we do what we can to reduce
  potential injuries resulting from circumstances that can be
  prevented.  Since 1991, eight children have died and many
  more have been injured because they snagged their clothing,
  book bags, and other items on the handrail as they exited
  school buses.  While Virginia has had no reported cases of
  deaths or injuries resulting from these incidences, one
  fatality  is being investigated as a possible drawstring/handrail
  fatality.  Additionally, there have been several cases where
  the draw strings have become entangled in the handrail,
  but have come out of the student's jacket. 

  The most common piece of clothing that can be caught on the
  handrail is a jacket with a drawstring at the waist.  The
  jacket drawstrings often have a large bobble or knot at the
  ends that can become lodged in the handrail.  Other
  articles, however, such as scarves, long straps on
  backpacks, or dangling key chains can also become entangled. 

  School bus handrails have had the same basic design for more
  than 30 years.  Recent fashion trends toward oversized and
  baggy clothing, however, have increased the opportunity for
  snagging incidents.  School bus manufacturers already have
  taken extraordinary and costly steps to remove snagging
  hazards from the entrances of school buses.  More than
  400,000 school buses have been recalled and manufacturers
  have absorbed the cost of the repairs.  

  In Virginia,  local pupil transportation directors, driver
  trainers, drivers,  and mechanics have received notices,
  materials, training, video tapes, and conference
  presentations on this topic.  Additionally, Department staff
  continue to perform on-site inspections and to assist with
  recalls and modifications, as needed.

  Pupil transportation personnel across the Commonwealth have
  asked me to advise you of the importance of notifying
  parents and students of this danger.  Drawstrings and straps
  should be removed from  clothing and students should  be
  asked not to attach dangling things to their bookbags or

  Questions about this safety hazard can be directed to your
  local pupil  transportation supervisor or Dr. Barbara V.
  Goodman at (804) 225-2037.