The basis for any successful student management program on district provided transportation should begin with the premise that the school bus is merely an extension of the classroom. Of all the responsibilities under the daily "umbrella" of school administrators, providing transportation for students to and from school, as well as to extracurricular activities, can be frustrating when students or parents fail to recognize that riding the bus is a privilege rather than a "right".
Dedicated and often under appreciated bus drivers are expected to focus 100% of their attention on safely delivering students to their destinations, and we ask this while only providing a large mirror to assist them in terms of supervising students and maintaining order. It’s a formidable expectation, but fortunately for everyone drivers continue to do their jobs well and accidents rarely occur.
What Can Principals Do to Help?
We suggest that many of the strategies used within the classroom should also be utilized on the school bus. Implementing the following suggestions should help make the entire school day safer - including the ride on the bus.
Communication - There should be a recurring dialogue between bus drivers and certificated personnel. If a problem is evident during the school day between two or more students, staff should check to see if the students ride the same school bus. If so, the driver should be notified and suggestions for the ride home should be made. Perhaps the students need to have different assigned seats. Perhaps one should sit up front with the driver, with the other riding in the back of the bus. Either way, the most important thing is for the communication between driver and staff to occur. And drivers should be reminded that in order for this to be most effective, communication should work both ways.
Staff Development - Teaching staff is usually provided periodic staff development on managing aggressive and/or violent behavior, and bus drivers should receive the same. In fact, when practical, it is a good idea to train both groups together so managing behavior in the classroom and on the bus becomes a collaborative effort, since each affects and benefits the other. Support staff is part of the educational team and should be treated accordingly. – There should be a recurring dialogue between bus drivers and certificated personnel. If a problem is evident during the school day between two or more students, staff should check to see if the students ride the same school bus. If so, the driver should be notified and suggestions for the ride home should be made. Perhaps the students need to have different assigned seats. Perhaps one should sit up front with the driver and one in the back. Either way, the most important thing is for the communication between driver and staff to occur. And drivers should be reminded that in order for this to be most effective communication should work both ways. If the bus driver is aware of a problem on the morning ride to school, he should make contact with the administrator or counselor at the start of the school day.
Post Rules - Bus rules should be posted in the classroom as well as on the bus. Behavioral expectations for the classroom should be similar and students should understand this through posted visual cues. Additionally, bus rules should appear in the student handbook and include language making it applicable to both the school day and other times a student might be on district transportation such as field trips, extra-curricular activities or other events.
Assign Seating - Assigned seating should be implemented on the bus from the beginning of the school year. Since the bus driver may not initially be familiar with many of the students on the route, teachers and other school officials should be ready and willing to assist by providing drivers with helpful background information. Emphasize to parents and students that this is a safety initiative that is beneficial to all.
Use Character Education - For most schools, character education programs and themes are a mainstay for shaping student behavior. School staff should work with district transportation officials to develop appropriate venues to continue these educational efforts on the bus. Creativity will be required since the "classroom" is a moving vehicle, but drivers and teachers can collaborate on promotions and themes that are appropriate for both.
Use Behavioral Contracts - - If students have had previous disciplinary problems while riding district transportation, the use of contracts or agreements may be beneficial. A conference should occur that includes the driver, an administrator, the student, and parent. All should understand the terms of the agreement, and both student and parent should be required to sign as a condition of continued district provided transportation.
Remove students - - While administrators sometimes hesitate to inconvenience parents, it is critically important for students to understand administrative expectations, as well as the consequences for inappropriate behavior.
Students understand the "real rules" on the bus are the ones that get enforced. Teach the guidelines to staff, students and parents and maintain high expectations. Using administrative authority when necessary can appropriately support bus drivers in their duties and responsibilities, as well as provide for a safer environment for all.