There are many means through which pupil transportation operations can keep student behavior on the school bus under control. Officials say that assigned seating can help; having video surveillance cameras installed on the bus is also effective.
John Nunes, transportation director at Vail (Ariz.) School District, says that all of his district’s buses have cameras, and the newest buses are outfitted with eight cameras inside.
Transportation department personnel review the video footage frequently, and Nunes says they operate “as transparently as possible for the parents. We invite parents to come and watch the videos,” if there is an incident involving their child.
Antonio Mlynek, transportation supervisor for special education at Washington Elementary School District #6 in Phoenix, says that building relationships with students and communicating with parents and teachers also contribute to a safe and positive bus environment.
“Greet students by name as they enter and leave the bus, and this includes parents and teachers — write down their names on your route sheet so you can remember them,” Mlynek says. “This will impress them and gain more respect and support from them, especially when you need their help to deal with behavioral issues.”
Nunes agrees, and says these are key components of a program at his operation that has significantly reduced problematic incidents among the ridership.
District sees success with PBIS program
During the 2011-12 school year, Vail School District incorporated a Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) program into its transportation department.
Nunes says that prior to starting the program, which is implemented district-wide, he had 47 long-term bus suspensions, and upon completion of the first year of the program, he had nine suspensions.
“At the base of the program is positive questioning and positive interaction,” Nunes explains. “Instead of saying to a student, ‘You did this wrong, don’t ever do that again,’ you ask, ‘Is that something you should be doing? What would be the correct behavior?’”
Bus drivers and monitors at Vail (Ariz.) School District receive instruction on the operation’s Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program during their in-service training.
The bus drivers and aides were given guidelines on how to enforce the program, and they received training in small groups on how to effectively communicate with students. Nunes has two expectations of drivers and aides: They must not use any harsh language toward students under any circumstances, and they must engage with students as much as possible to help build positive relationships with them.
If a driver or monitor has an issue with a student, they address him or her by teaching an expectation of better behavior through positive questioning. Then, on the same day, the student’s parents are contacted by phone to explain what happened and how the transportation personnel addressed the incident. Parents are then asked to discuss the incident with their child so that the positive intervention is reinforced at home.
“We must engage the parents as much and as early as possible for an intervention to change a behavior, and that turned out to be the single biggest success piece of the whole program,” Nunes says. “Parents like the fact that we let them know something has happened and that we’re dealing with it from a positive standpoint. In situations where parents became actively engaged, they realized we were partners in keeping their children safe.”
Peaceful School Bus Program benefits drivers, students
Another program in which positive interactions with and among students play a large role is the Peaceful School Bus Program. It is being practiced at several schools within Chesterfield (Va.) County Public Schools, including Robious Elementary, J.A. Chalkley Elementary and Alberta Smith Elementary.
The program accommodates each school’s needs, but in general, the counselors meet with the riders of each bus before school at least once in the fall, winter and spring. In the meetings, students establish rules for the bus with the help of the counselors, and then they discuss what they like and don’t like about the bus, and solutions to problems.
The counselors also work actively with the district’s transportation staff.
Connie Honsinger, counselor at Alberta Smith Elementary, says she walks the bus loop with the principal and assistant principal every morning and afternoon. If problems arise on the bus, the drivers are encouraged to tell Honsinger and her colleagues so that they can address the situation immediately.
Honsinger adds that in meetings with the school staff, the bus drivers share their concerns regarding students, and the staff asks how they can best help the drivers.
Drivers who serve Robious Elementary and J.A. Chalkley Elementary also meet with the schools’ staff, and they are invited to the morning meetings with the students.