Stop Bullies on the School Bus
Bus drivers are fighting back, and parents can, too
Scene 1: A girl is making her way to the back of the bus when she’s tripped by a classmate and falls down. The classmate’s friends dissolve in giggles as the girl picks herself up and tries not to cry. “She’s so fat it’s a wonder she can even get down the aisle,” one sneers.
Scene 2: In what is a regular ritual, a boy sitting on the school bus is being pelted with paper clips and wadded up paper. The victim tries to laugh it off. But as the objects keep flying, it’s getting harder to keep up a good front.
You may think school bus bullying is a thing of the past, but to the country’s roughly 550,000 school bus drivers, it’s all too present. More than half of them have reported that bullying on school buses is a serious problem. In fact, about 10 percent of all school-related bullying occurs on school buses, according to federal reports.
Related: How to Bully-Proof Your Child
Training bus drivers to intervene
Eliminating such bullying is the goal of a
training program launched in 2011
by the National Association for Pupil
Transportation (NAPT) and the Department of Education. The two
scenarios above show up in the training program to teach school bus drivers across
the country to spot bullying and intervene to stop
“Basically, what the training boils down to is very simple: courtesy, respect and decency,” says Mike Martin, executive director of the NAPT. “To keep kids safe on the bus, kids need to respect each other, and they and the driver need to respect each other. With this program, the kids know the driver cares about them and will intervene if needed.”
“The bus drivers love the training, because the hardest part of their job isn’t driving; it’s behavior management,” says Martin. "The response from drivers has been fantastic.” And, says Martin, school bus drivers would love for parents to get involved in combating bullying on the bus. "It makes such a difference when parents are proactive instead of reactive," he says.
Among other things, drivers learn what doesn’t work (yelling, stare-downs in the overhead mirror) and what does (assigning seats, issuing verbal warnings, requesting assistance from teachers or school officials).
Get on board
Here’s how you can help support NAPT's anti-bullying on school buses campaign.
Get to know the bus driver. Introducing yourself to the bus driver, perhaps giving him your contact information, is a great first step, Martin says. The bus driver should also get to know your child. “We encourage drivers to know the names of all the students on their bus,” Martin says.
Let the driver know you have her back . “Have a conversation and say, ‘Hi, I want to help you; I’m on your side,” Martin says. “Tell the driver ‘I want to know what’s going on, so if there’s anything you see that I should know about, please let me know about it.’ I think you’ll find a tremendous receptivity among the drivers. They would love to be able to tell a parent when there’s a problem with bullying or anything else, because the parent may be able to help and de-escalate things more quickly.”
Encourage your child to be courteous to the driver. He can start by answering when the the driver says hello.
Talk with your child about bullying. “Often parents don’t realize their child is being bullied, or that their child might even be a bully,” Martin says. “Even though some of us witnessed all kinds of bullying growing up, we think this doesn’t happen anymore. And it does.”
Listen carefully. “If your child says, ‘Oh, so-and-so fell down on the playground or bus today,’ ask how that happened. Your child might say, ‘So-and-so pushed him; he’s always doing that.’ The conversation may alert you to bullying or other concerns that you can bring up with the bus driver or teachers.”
Pay attention to what your child doesn’t say . If you bring up the subject of bullying, “Watch for clues, such as kids saying, ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ or leaving the room abruptly. Kids will give you clues, if you’re listening.”