MARIETTA, Ga. — With the goal of increasing school bus safety, Cobb County School District has implemented an innovative program for student management.
Since the Safe Rider Program was launched last year, bus referrals have dropped 58 percent. Executive Director of Transportation Rick Grisham said that the district expects them to continue to drop 5 to 10 percent each year that the program is in place.
The Safe Rider Program is targeted toward middle school students, but Grisham said that it’s effective for all grade levels.
The district sends a letter to parents explaining the program in detail. The key components are:
• A hierarchy of the discipline structure, starting with the driver.
• A Safe Rider contract signed by parents and students.
• A Safe Rider class during non-instructional time.
• Greater transportation department presence at the “Sneak-a-Peek” before school, and transportation representation and presentations at open houses and parent/teacher/student meetings.
• Personnel available at the schools from 4:30-5:30 p.m. or beyond to accept students who need to be removed from the bus for safety reasons, in which case parents are called to pick them up.
The program promotes instant accountability for unsafe behavior. On the trip home, if unsafe behavior occurs before the bus leaves school, the student will be given two options: (1) Correct the behavior and continue home (with the behavior being documented) or (2) be removed from the bus and stay at school with staff supervision until a parent or guardian can pick up the student.
If unsafe behavior occurs after the bus leaves the school, the driver will call his or her field coordinator. The field coordinator will then meet the bus and assess the situation. If necessary, the field coordinator will remove the student from the bus and return him or her to school to remain under staff supervision until a parent or guardian can pick up the student.
In either case, a graduated discipline plan goes into effect. A first offense for a middle school student includes being reassigned to the front of the bus for a week, parents being contacted and a student/driver conference. The disciplinary actions increase for subsequent offenses, culminating in the transportation director recommending that the student be suspended from the bus for the rest of the year.
The Safe Ride Program has not been restricted to Cobb County School District. This summer, district transportation staff gave a keynote presentation on it at the Georgia Association for Pupil Transportation conference. At least one other district in the state has implemented the program, and Grisham said that his department is available to present it to others.