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November 01, 2007  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Tackling School Bus Bullying

As bullying incidents onboard school buses reach new heights, experts on the subject discuss its scarring effects and offer strategic approaches for drivers, while school officials disclose how their districts are working to curtail this troubling problem.

by Kelly Roher, Assistant Editor

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Additional resources
There are numerous resources school districts can utilize to educate their drivers about bullying prevention. For instance, Coastal Training Technologies Corp., based in Virginia Beach, Va., has produced a video titled Breaking Up Fights on the Bus. Chris Scaglione, the company’s product and marketing manager, says that this tutorial is available on VHS and DVD and will soon be available in the company’s online format, ClarityNet HD.

Breaking Up Fights on the Bus discusses verbal and physical techniques for stopping fights on school buses,” Scaglione says. “Drivers are taught the proper forms of intervention as well as the improper forms so that they don’t cause injury to themselves or to the students involved.” He adds that with the DVD version, district officials are able to customize the PowerPoint slides according to their district’s policies.

Scaglione urges districts to customize the company’s DVDs and online courses. “While our products are informative, they’re really a platform for schools to build upon,” he says. “We expect schools to insert their own rules and policies after viewing the DVDs and taking the online courses, because each district is different.”

Coastal Training also offers a course called Bullying Prevention: Taking Action. Scaglione says this tutorial covers verbal, physical, psychological and cyberbullying and then offers strategies on how to prevent and intervene during each of these types of incidents.

In 2005, Ellis made a 30-minute training video called Growing Respect on Your Bus while working at the Pupil Transportation Safety Institute, based in Syracuse, N.Y. He says the video provides drivers with traditional student management tips and emphasizes the importance of establishing a respectful tone onboard a school bus. “It also discusses that it is important for drivers to be aware of anything that might be troubling their students and, if they suspect a student is being bullied, to talk to him or her,” Ellis says.

Ingham and deLara are two of the subject matter experts featured in the video. “Drivers provided good insight on effective bullying intervention methods as well,” Ingham says. “A big part of what the video conveys is that drivers must send the message that bullying onboard school buses will not be tolerated.”

In addition to receiving the appropriate training, tenacity is essential in combating bus bullying — it will not be reduced without a continued effort, not just from drivers, but from school officials as well. “School bus bullying is part of a larger problem within the school system as a whole,” deLara says, “so I feel it’s critical for drivers to receive extensive support to help them deal with this issue.”

Respect, trust are key for bullying prevention
Suzanne Stayton, a school bus driver for Moravia (N.Y.) Central School District, discusses her approach to student behavior management.

At the beginning of each school year, I tell the kids I won’t put up with bullying. I talk to them on an even level because we’re all equal and I want them to understand what I’m saying. It’s important to establish a relationship based on mutual respect.

My students and I created a list of bus rules based on this idea. Some of them are:
1. Respect each other.
2. Respect your bus.
3. Respect your bus driver.
4. No fighting.

The list also contains words that aren’t allowed on my bus [swear words and derogatory terms] because they’re improper and could hurt someone’s feelings. The kids came up with those words because they hear them at school.

I think trust cuts down on bullying, too. My students know they can come to me if they need help. Many of them come from foster care and sometimes the only way these types of kids know how to deal with problems is to bully people, but if you understand what they’ve been through and you give them positive attention, they’ll be less inclined to bully.

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