Is bullying on buses common?
It's hard to say for sure, but it's definitely a significant problem.
The school bus is, in many respects, a rolling classroom, and many of the challenges that exist there also exist on the bus, perhaps to an even greater extent. There are typically far more children on a school bus than in a classroom, and the bus driver has to manage them all while operating a 10-ton vehicle — and facing the opposite direction! It's an incredibly tough job, made even more so by bullying among students.
We know parents have mixed impressions of school buses. A 2006 survey conducted by the American School Bus Council (ASBC) revealed that for the most part, parents think the bus is a safe way to transport their children to and from school and rarely hear of school bus accidents. However, the same survey revealed parents are concerned about the bus driver's background and qualifications, which are rarely known outside of the transportation department, and parents are also concerned about student misbehavior on the bus, especially more serious situations like bullying.
Parents in this survey also said their children had similar complaints about unruly behavior on the bus. In fact, one participant in a focus group stated, “The older kids are so rowdy on the bus; they don’t listen generally. And if a bus driver is always talking to them about being quiet, that’s distracting him from driving.”
One thing is for sure: Every driver knows that students who step aboard the bus have to cope with all kinds of issues, from problems at home and school to disputes with friends. We live in complicated times, and all manner of social, demographic and economic factors affect children and their behavior.
What is NAPT’s stance on bullying?
The short answer is that we have no tolerance for bullying, and stopping it is one of our national public policy priorities.
The challenge for us is that while bullying occurs on school buses (and many other places), the root causes and solutions involve larger societal issues that are very complex. As an accountable and conscientious industry, we want to be part of the solution but clearly do not have all the answers or ability to deal with them all effectively.
The recent incident in Florida has triggered an interesting public response: Some feel that the father is a hero for taking matters into his own hands. Others, including those of us in the school bus industry charged with the safe and secure transportation of children, believe that vigilantism is never acceptable.
That said, we all have experienced the frustrations of working for solutions within “the system” that can often be slow, bureaucratic and unresponsive. So, while we certainly do not condone the behavior of this father — behavior that is illegal in many jurisdictions — the upside is that this unfortunate incident is triggering a much-needed national discussion about bullying prevention and solutions. We intend to be very involved in that discussion.
Bullying complaints must always be taken seriously, and “the system” needs to provide a swift and thorough response when allegations are raised. No exceptions. Parents should never feel compelled to take matters into their own hands. They need the confidence that their child — whether on a school bus, at a bus stop, on a playground or in the school restroom — will not be subjected to taunting, abuse or assaults from other children. Those who bully need to know that their behavior will not be tolerated.
To download NAPT’s full white paper, click here. For more information on NAPT, go to www.naptonline.org.