Anti-Bullying Training on the Bus: More Crucial Than Ever?

Nicole Schlosser
Posted on April 19, 2017
Incidents of election-related bullying in schools have been widely reported. Is an increase in training on behavior management on the bus needed in response? Photo courtesy NHTSA
Incidents of election-related bullying in schools have been widely reported. Is an increase in training on behavior management on the bus needed in response? Photo courtesy NHTSA

It has been widely reported that bullying in schools, along with hate crimes in several cities, have increased substantially since the presidential primaries and election.

An online survey conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project in November after the election found that of more than 10,000 teachers, counselors, administrators, and other school officials that responded, 90% reported that there was a negative impact on the school climate, with most holding the belief that the impact will be long-lasting. Additionally, 80% saw “heightened anxiety and concern” among students who are worried about the impact of the election on themselves and their families.

The report on the survey also noted an increase in “verbal harassment, the use of slurs and derogatory language, and disturbing incidents involving swastikas, Nazi salutes, and Confederate flags.”  Half of respondents said that students were targeting each other based on which candidate they supported. The bullying behavior targets immigrants, Muslims, girls, LGBT students, students with disabilities, and “anyone who was on the ‘wrong’ side of the election,” according to the report.

Inevitably, some of these incidents have taken place, unfortunately, on the school bus. There were two that gained widespread attention. One involved a New York school bus driver who reportedly told elementary school students aboard his bus that those who “voted” for Donald Trump could exit the bus, and argued with students. In another, three middle school students got into a fight on a bus over one of the students wearing a hat with Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” In the latter case, the Parkway School District in Missouri suspended the three students and planned to have them participate in a mediation process to help them “learn to resolve their differences in a peaceful and respectful manner,” according to KMOV.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, one school bus contractor spoke with a district customer that was concerned about an increase in bullying. Krapf Bus Companies had been planning to do some training on the topic during their winter training session, Shawn McGlinchey, vice president of risk management, Krapf Bus Companies, told School Bus Fleet. The contractor trained all 1,702 of its drivers (including non-CDL drivers) and monitors on student interaction and behavior management in January.

By walking through various scenarios and more relaxed discussions, the training addressed types of bullying (such as verbal and physical, and tactics like intimidation and exclusion), how to intervene, and gave a reminder that teasing and using slurs based on ethnicity, race, gender and gender identity, disability, and religion should never be tolerated.

“It sparked a lot of conversation and agreement that we have our core values: commitment, open communication, respect for others, and excellent service,” McGlinchey explained.

The training also emphasized that politics should not be discussed on the bus, as it is not part of bus conversation.

“When we got to the political thing, we said, ‘The policy is, don’t discuss it. Simple as that. It’s not part of your job. It’s not what we’re asking you to do. Don’t engage in that kind of conversation.’”

As for Krapf Bus, McGlinchey said that although the contractor has not necessarily seen an increase in bullying incidents related to the election, the training was an opportunity to set the tone on the bus in a positive way.

“I think the awareness was there even before the election. I think it was good timing for this to be brought out with the conversation with our district customers.”

Have you seen an increase in bullying that appears to be related to the election on your buses? If so, have you discussed this with your drivers, conducted any specific training on how to deal with it, or changed up reporting practices in response? Tell us in the comments section below.

Related Topics: bullying, driver training

Nicole Schlosser Managing Editor
Comments ( 2 )
  • See all comments
  • Ted Finlayson-Schueler

     | about 4 months ago

    SPLC has been a trusted voice for many years. If exposing and quantifying discriminatory behaviors is an "agenda," then I think it is an agenda that all citizens who believe that the United States of America should be a land of equal opportunity should support. In terms of the issue at hand, I think that an important differentiation exists between training and changing hearts. We can "train" drivers and attendants to protect students from bullying in regard to "different races, weights, national origins, ethnic groups, religions, religious practices, mental or physical abilities, sexual orientations, gender identity, and sexes," to quote the New York State Dignity for all Students Act, but it doesn't really help unless we actually persuade them that the bullying is unwarranted and unacceptable. One only has to do a quick YouTube search to find dozens of videos where the buss staff were actually the bullies. I have served as an expert witness in numerous cases that didn't make the internet. When we have state, local and federal elected officials denigrating the very classes of people that we are supposed to be training our staff to protect it is an uphill battle. If they believe that the Muslim refugee or the transgender child on their bus doesn't deserve equal protection, in the heat of the moment, they will revert to their beliefs, not our training. We need to change hearts, we need to hire the right people, and we need to be the right people if we are going to live up the the high standard transporting students to school physically safe, emotionally secure and ready to learn.

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