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How I Handled...

Helping Bus Drivers
Feel an Important Part
Of the School Community

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Our school bus drivers told us that they often felt unappreciated and disrespected. In order to change that perception -- to make sure our students saw bus drivers as an extension of the school day and an important part of the school community -- we needed to come up with a plan.

The Problem:

We learned from our school bus drivers that they often felt misunderstood and unappreciated. They said that students didn't listen to them because the schools or parents often didn't follow through on the issues the bus drivers raised.

The Solution:

It's important that students respect school bus drivers, who have a difficult job to do. To get students safely home, drivers must be able to concentrate on their driving. If misbehaving students distract the driver, student safety is compromised. I believe that it's extremely important, therefore, that school bus drivers feel as though they are an important part of the students' education. So we came up with a plan to ensure that drivers get the respect they deserve:

  • At the start of each school year, we hold a meeting with bus drivers to go over procedures and to set guidelines.

  • We provide drivers with a list of all the students on their buses -- a list that includes the phone number of each student. If a driver is having a problem with a student, we encourage that driver to contact the student's parents directly.

  • At the start of the school year, we review bus safety rules with students who ride the bus. Students sign a copy of the rules to acknowledge that they've been made aware of the rules and that they understand their responsibilities in regard to bus safety. A copy of the rules also is sent home for parents to review and sign.

  • Finally, we put in place a procedure for enforcing those regulations when students break the safety rules. Our behavior plan for buses consists of the following steps:
    -- First reported offense: Principal meets with the student.
    -- Second offense: Principal contacts the student's parent.
    -- Third offense: Principal schedules a conference with the student's parent.
    -- Fourth offense: The student is suspended from the bus for 1 to 5 days.

If a student receives four suspensions, or she loses riding privileges for the rest of the term.

If a student engages in a fight on the bus, he or she loses riding privileges for the rest of the school year.

Reflections:

Creating a system that addresses the concerns of our school bus drivers turned out to be a win-win situation. Drivers feel supported by the school, which makes for better working conditions for them. I win, because I've received fewer complaints from drivers since the plan has been in place. The big winners, however, are the students. Their trips to and from school are safer than ever before.

About the How I Handled... Team of Principal Problem Solvers
The How I Handled... series is intended to be practical resource for all principals and principals-to-be. Each week, members of Education World's How I Handled team share how they solved actual problems relating to school leadership, parent involvement, professional development, and a host of other "principal" responsibilities. Six principals comprise our How I Handled team; two of them are elementary school principals, two work at the middle level, and two are high school principals. Team members remain anonymous; in that way, they can share freely the range of issues/problems they are called on to solve each day.

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