Dr. Allan Beane of Bully Free Systems discussed how drivers shouldrespond to bullying on their school buses.
Handling bullying and student behavior management
Bullying and student behavior were once again the topic of sessions at the summit. A panel moderated by attorney Peggy Burns of Education Compliance Group covered student conduct on the school bus — specifically, where behavior management on the part of school transportation staff ends and law enforcement becomes necessary.
The panelists were Sunil Mansukhani, principal at The Raben Group, Pete Meslin, director of transportation at Newport-Mesa (Calif.) Unified School District, and Bret Brooks, senior consultant at Gray Ram Tactical LLC.
Mansukhani noted that it’s important for all stakeholders — school transportation officials, school officials, parents, law enforcement, etc. — to get involved to determine what happened when incidents occur, and he said that a bullied student who reacts violently “should not get off scot-free.”
Brooks noted that school districts should have a good working relationship with their local law enforcement agency, and he said that working with law enforcement can prevent situations on the bus from escalating into violent episodes.
Meslin agreed with Brooks regarding the district-law enforcement relationship. If an incident takes place, Meslin said, the district and law enforcement officials may be able to help one another.
As an example, the district “may have background information [on the students] that law enforcement may not have,” he explained.
In another joint presentation, Dr. Allan Beane, founder of Bully Free Systems, and Chris Ellison, director of transportation at Greater Albany (Ore.) Public Schools and past-president of the Oregon Pupil Transportation Association (OPTA), discussed how to respond when bullying is seen or heard on the bus.
A video created by the OPTA for training purposes was shown. It depicts a student continuously being bullied on the bus, with the driver taking no action to stop it. The student ultimately takes matters into his own hands, bringing a gun on the bus and taking it hostage.
In discussing the contents of the video, Beane said that bullying can’t be ignored, and when drivers become aware of it on their buses, they must respond immediately. He also recommended maintaining an open line of communication with all of the students involved.
When actually approaching an incident, Beane said the driver should be calm and assertive, giving the bully a direction, such as, “I need you to move to a seat at the front of the bus.”
Another version of the video then showed steps that the bus driver should have taken to prevent the bullying from escalating into a hostage situation.
In addition to addressing the situation immediately, drivers should get all of the facts right away and make sure that they support the victim by assuring him or her that they will make the bullying stop.
“It’s up to the driver to take the initiative to follow the steps,” Ellison said.
Establishing an immediate safety plan for victims of bullying is also essential, according to Beane.