Students, bus drivers and administrators alike, often report frustration with how to address bullying on the school bus. Unfortunately, the school bus provides the ideal setting for bullying, as the driver is typically the only adult on board. With the driver’s attention primarily focused on the road, his/her options are limited for quickly dealing with bullying while the bus is moving. It is because of this unique challenge, that we need to focus our efforts on prevention! Here are some tips for laying the groundwork for preventing bullying on the school bus.
First of all, it is essential that bully prevention on the bus be approached as a shared responsibility between students and the bus driver. In order to effectively take on this role of responsibility, students need to be educated on the difference between being a passive “bystander” and an active witness, or “ally”. Students who stand by to watch and listen to the abuse but do nothing about it are considered bystanders, and are actually supporting the bully by providing an audience for him/her. In contrast, an ally acts as a safeguard for the targeted student. An ally can offer valuable support simply by being aware of potential problems on the bus, befriending a targeted student by sitting with or talking to them, and reporting any bullying that takes place. As adults, we need to be respectful of the fact that all of these actions take courage, especially reporting bullying!
Secondly, include a process for students to anonymously inform adults of any incidences. Giving students an option to report, other than a face to face conversation with the driver will help alleviate any fear or embarrassment that may otherwise keep students from being effective allies! Many schools have found success in making forms available that allow students can pick up as they exit the bus or at another location in the school building. Make sure that students understand they can report bullying on the bus to any trusted adult, not just the driver!
Finally, it is important to remember that a solid discipline policy for bus behavior must be in place before any kind of bully prevention initiative can be effective! A zero tolerance for bullying must be communicated to students, and their parents. By communicating these expectations before the school year starts, you are setting a tone for the rest of the school year. Consider turning your bus expectations into a type of contract that requires the signature of the student and their parents. (This can easily be included in the packet of papers that parents are given during parent orientation or open house.) While this contract is not a magic fix, it does provide excellent documentation, and comes in handy during those challenging discipline conversations with parents! It also helps reinforce the concept of follow-through and commitment.
Photo Credit: Photo acquired via the Flickr photostream of woodleywonderworks.