It has been widely reported that bullying in schools, along with hate crimes in several cities, have increased substantially since the presidential primaries and election.
An online survey conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project in November after the election found that of more than 10,000 teachers, counselors, administrators, and other school officials that responded, 90% reported that there was a negative impact on the school climate, with most holding the belief that the impact will be long-lasting. Additionally, 80% saw “heightened anxiety and concern” among students who are worried about the impact of the election on themselves and their families.
The report on the survey also noted an increase in “verbal harassment, the use of slurs and derogatory language, and disturbing incidents involving swastikas, Nazi salutes, and Confederate flags.” Half of respondents said that students were targeting each other based on which candidate they supported. The bullying behavior targets immigrants, Muslims, girls, LGBT students, students with disabilities, and “anyone who was on the ‘wrong’ side of the election,” according to the report.
Inevitably, some of these incidents have taken place, unfortunately, on the school bus. There were two that gained widespread attention. One involved a New York school bus driver who reportedly told elementary school students aboard his bus that those who “voted” for Donald Trump could exit the bus, and argued with students. In another, three middle school students got into a fight on a bus over one of the students wearing a hat with Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” In the latter case, the Parkway School District in Missouri suspended the three students and planned to have them participate in a mediation process to help them “learn to resolve their differences in a peaceful and respectful manner,” according to KMOV.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, one school bus contractor spoke with a district customer that was concerned about an increase in bullying. Krapf Bus Companies had been planning to do some training on the topic during their winter training session, Shawn McGlinchey, vice president of risk management, Krapf Bus Companies, told School Bus Fleet. The contractor trained all 1,702 of its drivers (including non-CDL drivers) and monitors on student interaction and behavior management in January.
By walking through various scenarios and more relaxed discussions, the training addressed types of bullying (such as verbal and physical, and tactics like intimidation and exclusion), how to intervene, and gave a reminder that teasing and using slurs based on ethnicity, race, gender and gender identity, disability, and religion should never be tolerated.
“It sparked a lot of conversation and agreement that we have our core values: commitment, open communication, respect for others, and excellent service,” McGlinchey explained.
The training also emphasized that politics should not be discussed on the bus, as it is not part of bus conversation.
“When we got to the political thing, we said, ‘The policy is, don’t discuss it. Simple as that. It’s not part of your job. It’s not what we’re asking you to do. Don’t engage in that kind of conversation.’”
As for Krapf Bus, McGlinchey said that although the contractor has not necessarily seen an increase in bullying incidents related to the election, the training was an opportunity to set the tone on the bus in a positive way.
“I think the awareness was there even before the election. I think it was good timing for this to be brought out with the conversation with our district customers.”
Have you seen an increase in bullying that appears to be related to the election on your buses? If so, have you discussed this with your drivers, conducted any specific training on how to deal with it, or changed up reporting practices in response? Tell us in the comments section below.