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January 24, 2012  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Establishing positive behavior on the bus

The Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program provides students with incentives to meet and exceed behavioral expectations. Officials who work for a Maryland middle school say they have seen a change among students since implementing the program, and that it is a useful tool for the bus environment.

by Keith Lowery

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Administrators at Julius West Middle School in Rockville, Md., are working with Montgomery County Public Schools' transportation staff to include bus drivers in the school's PBIS/ROAR program.
<p>Administrators at Julius West Middle School in Rockville, Md., are working with Montgomery County Public Schools' transportation staff to include bus drivers in the school's PBIS/ROAR program.</p>

Including bus drivers in the program
The Montgomery County Public Schools bus operators who drive for Julius West Middle School faced struggles with their students’ behavior similar to those of most bus drivers across the country. Some students chose to stand in their seats, hang their hands or heads out the window, jump from seat to seat, talk disrespectfully to each other and the driver or eat food on the bus.

In previous school years, the only tool available to the drivers was to have the security team or administrators come on the bus to talk to the students, or write discipline/referral forms for the offending students. Although these measures resulted in some success, it was often temporary.

This pattern, as well as a general frustration with poor behavior on the buses, led to a cooperative venture between transportation and the school. The transportation supervisors and administrative staff at Julius West Middle School discussed ways that the drivers could be a part of the PBIS program run in the school. The drivers were trained by the Julius West administrative staff in September on the specifics of the program that apply to them.

“We were very pleased that our drivers wanted to work with us to support our PBIS/ROAR [Respect, Organization, Achievement, Responsibility] program,” Julius West Principal Nanette W. Poirier says. “Using this program across all school settings, including transportation, sends the message to students that behavioral expectations are universal. Our collaboration also conveys the message that the adults who work with them are consistent and work together.”

By including the bus drivers in the PBIS program, the school administration’s team has received fewer referrals and parent complaints.

Components of PBIS/ROAR
The mascot of Julius West Middle School is a jaguar, and the school created the ROAR acronym to help the students remember the behavioral expectations in the school.

The school provided the bus drivers with the ROAR message specifically designed for transportation, to be posted on the bus. Included in their packet was “JW Dough” (wallet-size slips of paper), to be given to student passengers whom the drivers catch being good.

“Students exiting the bus say to other students, ‘The driver gave me JW Dough because I didn’t act bad on the bus. You should try to get some too,’” says Frank Soohoo, assistant principal at Julius West.

The drivers are encouraged to give JW Dough to students who behave every day, as well as students who have a difficult time behaving on the bus.

Specific examples of when the JW Dough could be given include a student bringing an item forward to the driver that he or she found in the back of the bus, moving over to make room for another student or sitting down for the entire ride home (when the student has had previous issues in this area).

What drivers are saying
When asked about how the PBIS/ROAR program has benefitted him in his job, Harout Aghkekian, a bus operator for Julius West, had a lot to say.

“I have personally found it to be a very useful, powerful and positive tool, if used properly,” he says. “There are certain guidelines in which children are already expected to abide by while on the school grounds, however, just like their adult counterparts, children also enjoy recognition, acknowledgement and incentive for a job well done. Reception of an award has universally been proven to be the perfect gesture to showcase appreciation of many sorts.”

Aghkekian went on to say that even though he has only worked for the school for a short time, he sees this method of discipline as the best method because it provides a positive tool to assist in keeping 50-plus kids from misbehaving, and seeking ways to earn JW Dough.

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