Houston’s Sgt. Bell raps about school bus safety

DOVER — Rapper Sgt. Bell has a message for the First State’s kids as they head back to school:

“Listen to your bus drivers.”

Lafayette Bell, a Houston songwriter and rapper who goes by the stage name Sgt. Bell, dropped in on the Tuesday Camden Boys and Girls Club at Wyoming United Methodist Church in Dover to drop an inspirational beat for the youngsters.

Performing his original rap “School Bus Safety,” Mr. Bell invited the two dozen children at the event to examine the lyrics and think about what sorts of things they could do to make their school bus a safer place.

“If you follow the rules, you’ll have a safe bus ride and you won’t distract the bus driver,” Mr. Bell said to the two dozen Boy and Girls club members. “If you’re not following the rule of the bus, you may distract the bus driver and cause an accident. That’s why we have to try so hard to be safe. You are responsible for you.”

Rapper Sgt. Bell presents his school bus safety song.

Mr. Bell, a disabled veteran, has been a school bus driver for Lake Forest School District for about 12 years. Several years ago, he wrote and recorded the School Bus Safety rap to help provide an easily sharable and relateable safety message for Delaware’s middle school-aged students.

“About five years ago, I just saw a need for it and as the owner of Diamond State Records, I had the ability to produce it, so I wrote and recorded it,” said Mr. Bell.

“I just wanted to give the kids a positive message they could relate to. It’s just so important for us as bus drivers to stress safety because kids waiting at the bus stop horsing around or pushing and shoving on the bus could lead to an accident and someone could get hurt. It’d be terrible.”

In prior summers, Mr. Bell has taken the rap on tour to various school events to spread the message. Recently, it played several times on WMPH 91.7 FM — Delaware’s first high school radio station, located in Wilmington.

The school bus safety rules circulated by the National Safety Council include:

Getting on the bus:

• When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic and avoid roughhousing or other behavior that can lead to carelessness

• Do not stray onto the street, alleys or private property

• Line up away from the street or road as the bus approaches

• Wait until the bus has stopped and the door opens before approaching the bus

• Use the handrail when boarding

Behavior on the bus:

• If seat belts are available on the bus, buckle up

• Don’t speak loudly or make loud noises that could distract the driver

• Stay in your seat

• Don’t put your head, arms or hands out the window

• Keep aisles clear of books and bags

• Get your belongings together before reaching your stop

• Wait for the bus to stop completely before getting up from your seat

Getting off the bus:

• Use the handrail when exiting

• If you have to cross in front of the bus, first walk at least 10 feet ahead until you can see the driver

• Make sure the driver can see you

• Wait for a signal from the driver before crossing

• When the driver signals, look left, right, then left again. Walk across the road and keep an eye out for sudden traffic changes

• If your vision is blocked, move to an area where you can see other drivers and they can see you

• Do not cross the center line of the road until the driver signals it is safe

• Stay away from the rear wheels of the bus at all time

Driver shortage

Entering a new school year is a perennial reminder to the state’s school districts of their desperate need for qualified school bus drivers. This paper reported last August that the state’s Department of Education (DOE) was experiencing a driver shortage in every district.

“The DOE provides technical assistance to districts and contractors on strategies to make their routes more efficient, working to find new ways to find drivers and working to increasing the number of incoming school bus drivers to fulfill the requirements of DMV and DOE,” DOE spokeswoman Susan Keene Haberstroh said at the time.

However, drivers and contractors note that low pay and sub-standard working conditions would likely continue to degrade service.

For his part, Mr. Bell says if disciplinary issues were smoothed out, older drivers may continue to drive longer and retirees may consider becoming drivers.

“We have a lot of drivers who are getting too old to drive, but for some, it’s a money issue too,” he said. “I think a lot of older people decide not to try to become school bus drivers is that young people today have a reputation for being disrespectful. A lot of retirees just don’t want to mess with that. I feel like if a greater effort is made to be positive, connect with the kids and spread a good message, conditions might be improved a little.”


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