According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 2006–2007, one-third of U.S. students ages 12 through 18 reported being bullied. Of those, 8 percent said they were bullied on the school bus.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and schools are emphasizing the importance of year-round efforts to put an end to bullying wherever it occurs, including buses.
Some school districts, such as Fairfield County in Connecticut, are putting cameras on buses to help cut down on bullying and other misbehavior. Others have adult monitors to watch over students. But many districts can’t afford those measures. That’s when the drivers must find ways to intervene.
“School buses should be bully-free zones,” says Steve Byrd, a school bus driver from Manchester, Michigan. “If the kids start out the day knowing they’re safe and the bus driver more or less protects them, it’s easier for the child to go throughout his or her day.”
School bus drivers around the country agree with Byrd that buses, like schools, should be bully-free. According to NEA’s first nationwide survey on issues relating to bullying, bus drivers were more likely than other education support professionals (ESPs) to report witnessing bullying, with a whopping 92% of drivers feeling it is their duty to step in.
NEA’s recently released report, Bus Drivers and Bullying Prevention, offers practical tips about what bus drivers can do to prevent or intervene in bullying situations.
Some strategies include establishing a positive atmosphere on the bus, and being clear, fair, and consistent about rules; treating students the way you want to be treated and the way you want them to treat each other; getting to know all of the students on the bus, including bullies; and learning and using student names.
Byrd also suggests good old-fashioned manners.
“When it comes to bullying, I start with making sure all the kids use manners; I just want them to be respectful to each other, no name calling at all.”
If Byrd sees bullying on his bus, he immediately puts a stop to it. If he hears name calling, he speaks to the child; if it continues the next day, he takes the two students involved to the principal.
Byrd also feels comfortable talking to the parents. “We live in such a small community that if we have a problem, we call the parents,” he says. “Bullying is easier to handle in a smaller community.”
It’s also easier handle when the drivers are a part of the community. NEA’s survey finds that 81 percent of bus drivers live in the school district where they work. Being a part of the community makes transportation staff an invaluable resource in the stand against bullying.
Byrd’s school district is also small enough that he can speak with a principal directly if there’s an issue at hand, and he stresses that all school administrators need to realize that bus drivers are an integral part of a bully-free school culture.
“If there’s a relationship between the administration and bus drivers, as well as other support staff, it makes the transition for the children from bus to classroom easier for everyone,” he says.
Learn more about NEA’s Bully Free: It Starts With Me campaign