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August 20, 2012  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Positive interactions encourage peaceful bus ride

While surveillance cameras and assigned seating can help in addressing student behavior problems on the school bus, officials say that getting to know passengers, handling discipline issues in a positive way and acknowledging proper bus etiquette are also effective ways to keep troublesome behavior at bay. Here, we share the specifics of several programs and initiatives based on these approaches.

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Antonio Mlynek, transportation supervisor for special education at Washington Elementary School District #6 in Phoenix, says certificates, points programs and coupons for prizes have helped generate good behavior among his operation’s ridership.
<p>Antonio Mlynek, transportation supervisor for special education at Washington Elementary School District #6 in Phoenix, says certificates, points programs and coupons for prizes have helped generate good behavior among his operation’s ridership.</p>

“I noticed that this helps the students to develop more of a positive, respectful relationship [with the bus driver],” J.A. Chalkley Counselor Stacy Hassler says. “The bus drivers have stated they appreciate that we are doing the program because it makes them feel more respected and included as a member of our staff.”

The counselors say their students have responded positively to the Peaceful School Bus Program.

“The students love the bus meetings and beg me to do more!” says Marigrace Wilkes, counselor at Robious Elementary.

Honsinger says the program “drives home the point that kids are responsible for making their bus the way they want it to be, and when they know that adults are watching what they’re doing on the bus and care about it, it makes a big difference.”

She adds that in its third year of implementation, her school has seen a 68% reduction in bus discipline referrals.  

Coupons, bus points, certificates motivate students  
Washington Elementary School District #6’s transportation department has several initiatives in place to help facilitate proper behavior among bus passengers. 

Mlynek says some of the district’s schools have “coupons” that teachers distribute for good behavior. Transportation staff members also distribute the coupons to students who attend those schools. Students who receive the coupons are eligible to win a prize, such as an iPod. 

The department created certificates as well that the staff hands out to students. 

“It can truly make a difference,” Mlynek says. “I remember when I was a driver and I handed out my own certificates, I had students that I ran into a few years later that told me they still have it on their wall in their bedroom.”

Special-education students’ teachers, bus drivers and bus assistants also worked together to create a “Bus Points” program.

“The student must accumulate a certain number of points, showing improvement in particular behaviors,” Mlynek explains. “Once the student reaches a certain number of points, the bus driver and/or the bus assistant will come to the classroom and play a game — a card game, a board game, etc. — as a reward. This not only improves the behavior of the student, it improves the relationship with the transportation staff.”

In the past school year, Mlynek began a program called “Coffee Talk.” 

James Rogan, director of safety and training at The Trans Group in Spring Valley, N.Y., says the operation uses information from School Bus Safety Co.’s The Driver Training Course as part of its student management training. The contractor also emphasizes to drivers the importance of getting to know the students they transport.
<p>James Rogan, director of safety and training at The Trans Group in Spring Valley, N.Y., says the operation uses information from School Bus Safety Co.’s The Driver Training Course as part of its student management training. The contractor also emphasizes to drivers the importance of getting to know the students they transport.</p>

“I brought together transportation staff to meet with special-education teachers at the school sites where they transport students,” he explains. “This was an open forum for transportation staff to ask general questions or discuss scenarios that could help with student management in this particular program (each school site is dedicated to a certain disability, such as autism). This also allowed teachers to discuss perceptions that the transportation staff may have about how teachers handle situations.”

Contractor utilizes School Bus Safety Co. training program  
For school bus contractor The Trans Group in Spring Valley, N.Y., a big component of student management training for the drivers focuses on the importance of getting to know the students they transport.

James Rogan, director of safety and training, says that when drivers are familiar with their passengers and know where they are in their growth and development, it makes it easier to understand why the students may act out in a specific way.

During training sessions, information is shared with drivers on how elementary, middle and high school students think.

Rogan adds that The Trans Group uses material from School Bus Safety Co.’s The Driver Training Course for student management training.

“There are different components of student management in the program,” he says. “There’s a section on how to handle kids, and then another component is ‘Preparing Students to Learn,’ which is all about making sure they [drivers] are sensitive to the students’ needs at the beginning of the day — making sure they’re not yelling at them, that they’re not being bullied, etc. — to prepare them for school.”

Among the operation’s recommended practices for addressing student behavior issues is to use a four-step progressive discipline approach. For the first infraction, the student is issued a verbal warning. For a second infraction, another verbal warning is given and the student’s parents are notified. For a third incident, a warning is issued, and it is recommended that riding privileges are suspended until school officials meet with the student’s parents. For a fourth infraction, a warning is given and temporary or permanent removal from the bus is recommended.

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