Bullying Prevention: What School Bus Drivers Need to Know

In recent years, school bullying has become a growing concern for parents, teachers, and kids. Because grade-school students now can bullying incidents on their phone, the public is getting an inside look at what many children go through. Some of the videos have even gone viral, causing disciplinary actions to be taken against the perpetrators. However, there are plenty of incidents that fly under the radar every day.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research found that one in three adolescents have reported recent bullying. This staggering number points to a need for stronger rules and heightened awareness on the part of schools and parents. A significant problem area involves bullying on school buses. These are unique situations in that the driver has a responsibility to operate the bus while also keeping students safe. This gives bullies a chance to get away with physical and emotional abuse without punishment. However, there are several things bus drivers can do to help deter bullying.

The Effects of Bullying on Kids

On the surface, bullying may seem like typical adolescent behaviour that every kid must endure while growing up. The truth is, the dangers of bullying are far-reaching for both the victims and perpetrators. Children who get bullied regularly during adolescence are at risk of developing depression, low self-esteem, isolation, and aggressive behaviour. They can even start experiencing physical side-effects of anxiety such as headaches and stomach issues. In extreme cases, a child may become suicidal.

The kids doing the bullying may also experience problems, some of which develop over time and manifest during young adulthood. Many bullies never learn the difference between wrong and right. This gap in their development can serve as a gateway criminal behaviour such as sexual abuse or gang involvement. Bullies are also at risk of dropping out of school, having relationship issues, and substance abuse. It’s imperative that schools consider this when taking disciplinary actions against bullies.

Identifying the Signs of Bullying

Bus drivers need to do everything they can to stop incidents of bullying. This task isn’t easy while operating a vehicle. Many children use the bus as an opportunity to pick on other students because they don’t feel like they’re being watched. Bus drivers are also at a disadvantage because they’re not as familiar with the personalities of each student as teachers are.

In many situations, what looks like innocent horseplay could be abusive behaviour. That’s why it’s essential for bus drivers to understand common symptoms of bullying. These include:

  • Students forcing another child to sit further back in the bus
  • Several students ganging up on another one, either verbally or physically
  • A specific student always wanting to sit near the front
  • Physical signs of abuse — bruises, cuts, or torn clothes
  • Students crying when leaving the bus
  • Students trying to walk home instead of taking the bus

Bus drivers need to remain vigilant of these signs and take action if they feel a child is intentionally getting bullied. It’s also important that schools have anti-bullying policies in place to properly diffuse abusive situations, so they don’t continue. These policies will define what steps need to be taken by teachers or school employees if they witness physical or emotional abuse. If implemented and adhered to, these policies could decrease the amount of bullying in schools by anywhere from 20 to 70 percent.

Prevention Tips for Bus Drivers

With the rise of bullying comes a greater responsibility for all school personnel to take preventative action when they notice a problem. Because so much bullying occurs on school buses in Toronto, drivers need to do their part to help cut down on incidents. They can do this in many ways.

  • Introduce themselves– If students know their bus driver, they’re less likely to misbehave. Bus drivers should introduce themselves immediately and get to know the names of all the students on their bus. Children will show more respect to someone they recognize as an authority.
  • Establish rules– Every bus driver should ensure all students riding the bus understand the rules. It helps to post a copy of the regulations on the bus where everyone can see. It also helps if drivers go over the rules verbally.
  • Assigned seating– If there’s an ongoing problem with bullying on a bus, the driver should implement assigned seating. This could be for all the students or just the perpetrators of bullying. Separating children who have issues with each other will ease the tension throughout the entire bus.
  • Report problems to the school – It’s essential that bus drivers work closely with the school when they witness a bullying issue. School administrators may need to sit down with the student’s parents or implement further disciplinary action to ensure the perpetrator doesn’t continue harming other students. The school may also need to work with the driver to establish or reform safety policies on the bus.

Bus drivers have a much more significant impact on a child’s school experience than they think. With a little observation and proactive intervention, they can stop bullying before it gets out of hand. Once these prevention techniques are put into action, students will feel much more comfortable on the bus and in school.