FAIRPORT, N.Y. — Shortly after the start of the school year in September, a bus driver with the Fairport Central School District (CSD) reported a disturbing incident on his bus: A student attempted to make his way from one side of the bus to the other, while the other students tried to physically prevent him from doing so — a game called "red light."
The driver first noticed the disturbance when a number of the students — who are part of a school volleyball team — began chanting "Red light! Red light!" while the bus was traveling at 55 mph on an expressway during a nighttime return trip from a game. The driver told the students to stop, but eventually the coach on board the bus was required to intervene.
"It almost becomes like a rugby tournament on the bus," Fairport CSD Director of Transportation Peter Lawrence said in an interview with SBF. "The consequences could be dire if someone was going from the front of the bus to the back and kids are pushing him or her."
After the incident, according to Lawrence, the coach began looking online for other occurrences of this game. He discovered videos of other red light games posted on MySpace, Facebook and YouTube.
Additionally, Lawrence spoke with a coach from another district who said the game had been used as a "rite of passage" by students on sports teams.
"[This game] totally opposes all the standards that we set for safety," Lawrence explained. "Kids will be kids, but obviously we need to make sure that they're safe while they're in our custody, and especially coaches and chaperones need to work as partners to combat this behavior."
In order to prevent this kind of incident from happening again, Lawrence included a description of the incident in his bi-weekly transportation bulletin, which goes out to district administrators and other transportation contacts across the country.
"I put in that bulletin, 'Please let us know if this has occurred, or if it occurs on your bus as soon as possible,'" Lawrence said. "When things [like the red light game] go out through social media, there's a potential for it to go viral or become more prevalent."
The district's director of health, physical education and athletics, Jim Zumbo, also sent an e-mail to his coaching staff, alerting them to the incident.
"Bus supervision is one of your primary coaching responsibilities, and we certainly cannot allow this type of activity (or anything similar) to occur on any of our team buses," Zumbo said in the e-mail. "It is not a game; it is unacceptable. It is a safety problem for all on the bus and causes a significant distraction for the driver."
Lawrence offers these tips to drivers who may experience a similar incident:
- Stop the bus."What I would recommend is that the driver brings the bus safely to a stop on the side of the road and puts on the hazard lights," he said.
- Address the student who is "playing" the game by name. "It is important as bus drivers to know the students. That is not always possible on an athletic trip, but in that case, the coach should know," Lawrence added.
- Call for assistance over the radio.
- Get the names of the students involved.
Lawrence suggests that administrators thoroughly examine the motivations of any student who engages in unsafe behavior on the bus.
"In this day and age, with bullying ... someone could easily be intimidated into [playing a game like red light]," he explained. "You have to think about whether this was something that the student wanted to do on his own, or was he proving himself? Or was it something where other students said, 'You need to do this or I will beat you up'? So, like any altercation that happens in the bus, you really need to dig down deeper to evaluate why the students are behaving the way they are."
Below is a clip of the red light game found on YouTube by Fairport district officials. It is unknown where this incident took place: