'Typecasting' administrators can help to resolve conflicts

J.D. Allen, director of custodial, transportation and warehouse services at St. Vrain Valley Sch
Posted on February 1, 1998

It takes a village to improve discipline on school buses. By that I mean that transportation managers, building administrators, parents and drivers need to work together to solve discipline problems. Bus-related difficulties can be particularly thorny because of the following: They often take a lot of time to investigate; They can turn ugly; Parents may be unsupportive; and building administrators have other problems and don't need another "bus problem." Drivers and students are nearly always the active participants in disciplinary situations on the school bus, but site administrators, such as principals and assistant principals, can be critically important to the resolution of these problems. That's why it's imperative that transportation managers understand the "types" of building administrators who may present difficulties in settling conflicts involving student misbehavior. The 3 'problem' administrators
These "difficult" building administrators range from the "touchy-feely" to the "no-nonsense" to the "that's-a-bus-problem, not-a-school-problem" types. When dealing with any of these "types," it behooves the transportation administrator to become involved in support of the drivers. Touchy-feely administrators may respond to bus problems with reactions such as "Susie is so good in school that I can't believe she would do that on the bus." They need help in understanding that children do sometimes behave differently in the classroom than they do on the bus. In some cases it is probably best if the transportation manager works directly with the driver to handle this problem. The building administrator is notified after the fact. No-nonsense administrators tend to blame the drivers and often claim "they just don't know how to handle kids." They may respond to a relatively minor infraction by suspending a student from riding the bus for a long period. They need to understand that disciplinary action needs to be consistent throughout the district. Often these administrators will be taking other actions into consideration, such as how the student behaves in the classroom. In other words, the child may be a problem for teachers and drivers. If the building administrator believed that his/her action was appropriate, I usually concurred with that judgment. The "that's-not-a-school-problem" administrator obviously does not want to be bothered with bus problems. I tried to get them to accept the fact that the bus is an extension of the classroom. What happens on the bus can affect what happens at school; what happens at school can affect what happens on the bus. Documentation is critical
Unfortunately, in a few of these cases, the transportation supervisor must go over the head of "that's not a school problem" to gain support for drivers. If this has to happen, it's imperative that the facts of each situation be well documented, especially attempts that have been made to try to gain the cooperation of the building administrator. Obviously, these three examples illustrate extremes rather than the norm. Depending on the circumstances, an administrator may react differently to misbehavior on buses. I know I did, and so do bus drivers. My experience showed that, by far, most administrators are supportive of bus drivers. Many of them even become friends with the drivers, treating them as part of the school staff. They realize that "what goes around, comes around." And when they need the driver's help and support, they will get it.

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