"Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2011" is the fourteenth 14th in a series of reports produced since 1998 by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). It presents the most recent data available on school crime and student safety gleaned from the perspectives of students, teachers, and principals.
The report released on Feb. 22 covers topics such as victimization, bullying, school conditions, fighting, weapons, and availability and student use of drugs and alcohol. One significant finding: the total crime victimization rate of students at school declined from 43 victimizations per 1,000 students in 2009 to 32 per 1,000 students in 2010. “At school” was defined, generally, as including “the school building, on school property, on a school bus, and, from 2001 onward, going to and from school.”
I found myself particularly interested in the section on bullying, given media attention, court exploration, and program development focused on this issue. Moreover, only the section on bullying identified the percentage of reported incidents that took place on the school bus.
Students ages 12 through18 who reported being bullied at school were asked to indicate the location in which they had been victimized. In data from 2009:
- About 48 percent of students reported being bullied by another student in the hallway or stairwell at school
- 34 percent reported being bullied inside the classroom
- 24 percent reported being bullied outside on school grounds
- 9 percent were bullied in the bathroom or locker room
- 7 percent were bullied in the cafeteria
- 6 percent of students reported being bullied on the school bus, and
- 3 percent were bullied somewhere else in school.
The report is worth skimming. Here are the wanderings of my mind as I considered how school transportation professionals might use the information in the report.
- First, even for bullying — the only type of incident for which on-bus statistics were provided — the report acknowledges that students bullied on the bus may also have been bullied elsewhere.
- The failure of school districts to respond to a pattern of bullying results in the greatest potential of harm to students and vulnerability to liability of districts. I’m guessing that bullying on the bus is often an off-shoot of bullying that occurs elsewhere in the school environment. Do we need to pay more attention to the connection between school and bus-related incidents? If I’m right, is the fact that bullying starts at school, and continues or is renewed on the bus indicative of the school-transportation disconnect? Would a focus on improving response by school officials to discipline problems on the bus help reduce bus incidents? Would alerting drivers to situations that occur at school help to prevent a continuation of those situations on the bus?
- But, most of all, I firmly believe that having and enforcing necessary bus conduct rules to maintain an orderly bus is the key to preventing any behavior that compromises safety on the bus. A controlled bus environment should be more of a goal than a bully-free bus, or a fight-free bus, or an alcohol-free bus. What I mean is that, an “under-control bus,” is one on which it is simply more difficult for any of these specific behaviors to occur. In other words, wouldn’t bullying — and other incidents described in the report — be reduced, if:
- Students are required to remain in their seats
- Effective seating charts are designed and enforced
- Students who require supervision are identified and supervised
- Drivers speak up, pull over as necessary, and, generally intervene in the case of student-to-student conflict
- Drivers process write-ups
- Transportation administrators forge relationships with school administrators
- Students are encouraged to report bus incidents
- Students are assured that their complaints will be taken seriously and those who hurt or intimidate them will be penalized.
The bottom line: let’s emphasize drivers establishing, monitoring and enforcing bus rules that create a safe environment. An anti-bullying training curriculum for drivers and attendants may, in the end, be less important than a pro-orderly bus strategy.
Do you agree?
is the former in-house counsel for Adams 12 Five Star Schools in Thornton, Colo., and currently owns and operates Education Compliance Group, Inc., a legal consultancy specializing in education and transportation issues. She is also a frequent speaker at national and state conferences and is the editor of the publication Legal Routes that covers pupil transportation law and compliance.