This week, Houston Independent School District taught both school bus drivers and their young riders about the importance of preventing bullying aboard the school bus.
Bus drivers handed out information on bullying and asked students to take a pledge against bullying — the same one they themselves took during a Tuesday training session. In addition, all 870 active route buses were fitted with signage that makes it clear to students that bullying will not be tolerated.
Nathan Graf, HISD transportation manager, said the district turned the spotlight on bullying in conjunction with School Bus Safety Week in October. The issue of bullying has received national attention in the wake of student suicides linked to cyberbullying as well as recent incidents aboard the school bus.
Thursday, the state of Florida dropped charges against a mother who boarded the bus to confront her child’s driver about alleged bullying that occurred on his watch. On Oct. 28 two Virginia teens were charged in an assault on their school bus driver. On Oct. 27 the mother of a sixth-grade special needs student sued an Illinois school district for negligence, alleging that her daughter suffered a broken leg after being “kicked, pushed, hit and otherwise assaulted by other students on the bus” in 2010. The list goes on.
The goal of the Houston driver training session, Graf said, was to provide a uniform set of guidelines on how all bus drivers should manage bullying. Because the bus is a small, enclosed space, experts say training and awareness are crucial to protect kids who are victims of bullies.
“HISD school bus drivers learned strategies for creating a positive bus climate and effectively dealing with bullying while the bus is in motion or stopped,” said Graf.
American schools harbor approximately 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims, according to the National School Safety Center. Also, a National Education Association study estimated that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.
“Hundreds of our drivers took a three-hour seminar learning how to tackle bullying while also driving a bus safely. It is a challenge drivers tell us they've been dealing with for years,” Graf continued.