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How I Handled...

Behavior Problems
On the School Bus


The bottom line is that behavior problems on school buses are really safety problems. This week, learn how one of our Principal Problem Solvers handled this issue and improved school bus behavior.

The Problem:

In our district, as in many others, student behavior on school buses is a major concern. Our district's 300-plus buses transport more than a third of our 63,000 students. When a behavior problem is reported, generally the student denies any wrongdoing and the parents choose to believe their child.

The Solution:

Our district did several things aimed at alleviating bus behavior situations.

  • Two video cameras with audio capabilities were installed in almost every bus -- one in the front and one in the rear. The cost of outfitting each bus -- a few hundred dollars -- was paid by district funds supplemented by monies from the state, grants, and donations.
  • About 100 of the buses in our fleet carry an aide. Aides ride buses used by some special education students; they also are aboard buses on many "problem" routes. Having a aide walking the aisles of a bus is a proactive safety move; relieving the driver of having to watch the kids and the road at the same time.
  • A cell phone that can be used by the driver and/or the aide is available on each bus.

Now, when a situation occurs on the bus, we immediately request the videotape, review it, and handle the referrals. With video, audio, and a second pair of adult eyes, students and parents have to recognize the behavioral situation.

At my school, more than 800 students ride the bus. In the past, I received five to ten behavior referrals a day from bus drivers. Since the cameras were installed and the aides added, the number of referrals has dropped by 50 percent. That's the good news. The better news is that with the video in hand and the aide's testimony I can now "convict" many more students of wrongdoing. Having that ability should cut the number of referrals even more.

The Reflection:

Ensuring safety on school buses is expensive, but well worth it! The actions our district took have made the bus drivers' jobs easier and my job easier too. Before, it was very difficult to resolve behavior problems; without being on the buses to witness the problem, it was difficult to wade through the students' he-said-she-said routine. Having bus videos and aides has saved us many hours of investigation -- and bouts of ulcers!


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. Six principals comprise our problem-solving team. This team of hard-working and reflective principals remains anonymous; in that way, they can share freely the range of issues/problems they are called on to solve each day. The series also illustrates the wide range of skills today's principals are required to possess. Two members of the team are elementary school principals, two work at the middle level, and two are high school principals.

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