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October 18, 2011  |   Comments (4)   |   Post a comment

‘Red light’ game puts N.Y. district officials ill at ease


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Call for assistance over the radio.
  4. 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:

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Read more about: New York

This game was big in the mid-1990s and virtually died out by 2000 as the Gen-Xers left high school and the Millennials took over. I guess everything old is new again!

Dan    |    Oct 09, 2014 06:16 PM

The school does not seem to mention any consequence to the players for this sort of risk behavior. Do they slide this time, and slide again with whatever new game they come up with down the road? So much of this stuff happens when riders can not trust that the adults involved mean what they say. Who can trust adults like that?

jkraemer    |    Oct 19, 2011 12:06 AM

If the coaches, teachers on board the bus in charge of the group do nothing to stop the unsafe practice - it is up to the driver to pull the bus safely off the roadway and take charge. Hopefully at that point the coaches and teachers should already be supporting the driver's efforts at bringing the situation under control. Just think what the outcome would be if there were students injured and no one does anything to stop them? Night time driving is one of the most dangerous times to be distracted from the roadway when you are trying to drive a school bus. Most building administrators would want to know if any driver experiences any bad behavior out of their students and staff members that would be deemed a dangerous situation for the driver. So make sure you make your report out and submit it to the building principal and even the school superintendent if you have any reportable student or staff injuries. Follow school board approved policies and procedures which are found within student and staff handbooks. Having cell phone numbers to the building principal or athletic director is always a good idea to have included upon trip request forms. Your reaction plan is only as good as your preparation for the what-ifs. None of us want to be on the late night News or CNN news coverage from having a preventable school bus accident.

Dan Luttrell    |    Oct 18, 2011 05:41 PM

That's what NY gets for having the dumb red lights! :P

K    |    Oct 18, 2011 04:54 PM

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