|School Bus Drivers Need to Recognize Bullying, Say STN EXPO General Session Panelists|
|Written by Ryan Gray|
The 18th annual STN EXPO regular conference opened with a general session Sunday afternoon that tackled the challenge of how school bus drivers nationwide can better respond to incidents of bullying and harassment on board the yellow vehicles.
Led by moderator Peggy Burns, a school attorney and president of Education Compliance Group outside of Denver, a panel of transportation and child behavior specialists agreed school bus drivers already are taxed by basic job requirements of safe vehicle operation and managing student behavior.
Yet, the federal Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Education have made it a priority recently to remind schools of their legal obligations to do everything in their power to report and respond to bullying or harassment incidents.
Mike Simmons, president of NASDPTS, the state director of student transportation at the Arkansas Department of Education and a former school board member, said school bus drivers don’t need to solve the problem but definitely need to recognize the problem. Transportation employees should not feel they need to be counselors for the children they drive but they do need to share all information on misbehavior with their supervisors, who in turn should be sharing that information with school administrators, school resource officers and others.
“They need to tell someone; they need to be aware,” Simmons added.
Burns followed up on that point by offering the 200 attendees in the room with the “4 R’s,” namely that school bus drivers and school employees in general must recognize any and all instances of bullying and harassment, respond to the behavior proactively and completely, report the incidents to school administrators, and reassure students who are being bullied or harassed that something is being done to protect them.
Weisinger has trained school bus drivers throughout Texas and elsewhere on responding to bullying. She commented that part of the conversation must be the continual effort of drivers to look inside themselves to determine if they might be a factor in contributing to the problem. Similar to an initial reaction by STN EXPO attendees, Weisinger said school bus drivers she has trained often gasp when she makes similar comments. But she added that the way school bus drivers manage the on-board environment can affect how students interact with each other.
As a behavioral specialist in addition to being a transportation director, Robinson warned of allowing students who are bullied as well as those who bully fall into a “black hole” created by district policy or driver nonchalance over any incidents. The result can be a student who finally snaps and turns violent. She agreed with an attendee's comment that school resource officers should be involved in responding to bullying but she also said students shouldn’t be necessarily treated as criminals, as the roots of bullying can often indicate a mental health problem that must be addressed.
While some district policies may address what is considered zero tolerance of unacceptable behavior, but those policies must not result in zero tolerance for the child. Instead, both the target and offender need continual follow up to ensure that neither fall between the cracks and instead receive appropriate assistance.
The U.S. Department of Education and NAPT unveiled first-ever, free training earlier this summer for school bus drivers on bullying intervention and response. Robinson gave an overview to attendees prior to sitting on the STN EXPO general session. That workshop was designed to explain the train-the-trainer concept so attendees can utilize the two new modules and train school bus drivers in their home districts.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 24 July 2011 16:23|