No Easy Answer for Reducing Bullying on School Buses

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A representative from the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center said pupil transporters are presented with a host of challenges including high costs and increased liability when attempting to tackle the problem of student bullying and harassment on board school buses.

Elizabeth Englander, Ph.D, is the director of MARC and a professor of psychology at Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts. She said that there are no easy answers for tackling bullying on school buses as additional bus monitors cost money, and volunteer monitors such as parents can increases a school system’s liability if not properly managed.

“Student monitors are a possibility – they have worked in some locations, we think – but are limited for obvious reasons,” she added.

MARC listed 10 tips that can help school faculties and support personnel such as school bus drivers cope with the national problem that is nothing new but which has received intense national intention over the past year. In an editorial penned this week for eSchool News, Englander and graduate assistant Kristin Schank said that school employees must continue to respond to any student bullying or harassment incident regardless if it does not constitute reportable behavior. “Ignoring even mild bully behaviors is essentially the same as endorsing them,” the authors wrote. This includes focusing on “gateway” behaviors that can facilitate or reinforce bullying by making disrespect seem normal or rewarded.

Cyberbullying continues to be a challenge as children are increasingly becoming more comfortable on the Internet. This issue should remain at the forefront of pupil transporters minds as school systems begin to at least consider extending wireless capabilities to the school bus to assist in mobile child learning, granted funds exist for such endeavors.

“Pupil transporters should be more a part of this conversation. My only hesitation is that it strikes me that both driving a huge bus and supervising 50 kids are two tasks that simply can’t be done simultaneously,” Englander added. “I worry about asking drivers to take their eyes and concentration off the road. My personal feeling is that we’re asking drivers to do an impossible double task; but still, training them to know what to respond to can only be a good thing.”

In August, Gov. Deval Patrick and the state Department of Education disseminated a model bullying intervention plan that is required by a new law. Teachers, school staff, professional support personnel, school volunteers, administrators, community representatives, local law enforcement agencies, students and parents/guardians are all called upon to work together to implement plans to deter bullying.