Terror Alert Issued To School Bus Drivers

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Department of Public Safety authorities have put school bus drivers from around the state on a heightened state of alert regarding the possibility of terrorist activity, including those in Payson, Pine and Tonto Basin.

A Sept. 28 information bulletin from DPS Student Transportation Supervisor Vicki Barnett to PUSD Director of Support Operations Joe Martin, directed bus drivers to "pay particular attention to any unusual activity around school buses; to unusual vehicles; to vehicles repeatedly seen in the vicinity; and, to any vehicles or individuals in unauthorized locations."

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State authorities have asked all school bus drivers to be alert for any possible terrorist activity in the next six weeks.

If any of those situations are observed, the letter asks drivers to "follow your school bus security plan, advising the appropriate authorities."

Also in the letter, Barnett wrote, "the small rural schools should remain vigilant, especially during the next six weeks."

Barnett said she penned the letter to all bus transportation directors and instructors in Arizona at the request of DPS Lt. Michael Lockhart.

According to Lockhart, the letter is partly in response to an advisory federal authorities sent to attorneys general throughout the United States regarding the possibility of terrorist activity in the next six weeks -- "the magnitude of the 9/11 attack," he said.

"We need a few more eyes out there and a heightened awareness," Lockhart said. "We don't want to alarm anyone, but we're prodding to be more vigilant."

Other than the letter to the attorneys general, Lockhart said there has been no specific terrorist threat that spurred him to have the bulletin sent.

He did say, however, that FBI and Homeland Security officers have served search warrants around the country on suspected terrorists and found school bus route schedules and information on public school systems.

In the bulletin Barnett cautioned "sometimes schools are caught completely off guard by events they may think may never happen to them."

After receiving the bulletin, Martin shared the information with his drivers and posted a copy on an information board in the school district bus barn.

He also says he anticipates his drivers will heed the advice and report any suspicious activity.

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