School bus bullying is a growing concern among parents, but recognizing the signs of bullying and knowing how to react to the situations can help ease tensions and eliminate problems.
Why Bullies Pick the Bus
For bullies interested in picking on their peers, the school bus is an ideal location. Supervision is generally minimal - before boarding the bus, the hectic rush of activity makes small bullying tactics hard to notice, and while on the bus, the only adult may be the driver, who cannot react to every incident because he or she is operating the vehicle. Because the bus is a small, closed space, victims of bullying have no place to retreat to, and they often have no choice but to ride the bus, making them easy and regular targets. This makes students vulnerable to intimidation and physical abuse on the bus. Parents, teachers and other students need to be aware of these problems and how to prevent them for the safety of everyone on the bus.
Dangers of Bus Bullying
While there is no doubt that bullying is dangerous to the student being tormented - in addition to physical harm, constant bullying tactics can damage a child's confidence, self-esteem and other personality traits - bullying is dangerous to everyone in the vehicle. Because of the close quarters, other students can easily be drawn into the action, either as additional victims or succumbing to the peer pressure to be a bully themselves. Severe bullying can distract the bus driver, increasing the risk of vehicular accidents that can severely injure students, other motorists and pedestrians. Bullying can also disrupt students' education by making them fearful of going to school and forcing them to focus on the intimation rather than learning.
Signs of School Bus Bullying
Students who are being bullied may not be willing to approach adults for help because they are concerned with being labeled weak or tattle-tales. Adults, however, can recognize signs of bullying - whether it is on the bus, on the playground or in the classroom - to help them know when children may need help. Bus bullying signs include:
- Fear of going to school or of riding the bus.
- Habitually delaying or otherwise deliberately trying to miss the bus.
- Continually asking for rides to school or finding excuses to ride with friends instead of on the bus.
- Ripped clothes, missing possessions or signs of physical abuse that a teacher is unable to report happening in class or at school.
How to React to Bullying
It is estimated that nearly one in five students is subjected to school bus bullying, and many parents' initial reaction may be to rush into the situation and protect their child. While this is admirable, such heroics may not help the situation because the parent cannot be present every time an incident may occur. There are steps that students and parents can take to prevent or stop bus bullying.
- Sit as close to the bus driver as possible and on the right-hand side of the bus so they are visible to the driver.
- Pair up with a neighborhood friend and ride the bus together.
- Be polite to someone who tries to bully them rather than reacting with anger; fighting back should never be an option and will only make the situation worse.
- Tell adults when bullying happens, including parents, teachers and the bus driver.
- Stand up for other students who are being bullied to keep it from spreading.
- Check the school's bullying prevention policies and report incidents to the proper officials.
- Keep the student's name confidential to avoid increased bullying.
- Be a good listener to encourage the child to tell adults if an incident occurs.
- Teach responsible bus riding behavior.
- Be a good role model by avoiding road rage and other driving related intimidation tactics.
- Avoid blaming the child for being bullied.
- Avoid encouraging retaliation or fighting and focusing on positive bullying prevention methods instead.
- Investigate alternative transportation such as car pooling, biking, walking or a different bus route if possible.
In cases of extreme bullying, even these tactics may not be enough to protect children from physical, verbal and emotional intimidation. There are, however, other ways parents can get involved to end this harassment.
Parents Getting Involved
The best way to eliminate this is to create a supportive, positive school environment that catches bullying early and makes it unacceptable behavior. Parents can support their local schools in a number of ways, such as:
- Start an anti-bullying campaign that may include school-wide activities, student pledges, and other events to show that it is unacceptable.
- Institute bus behavior contracts for all students that clearly delineate consequences for bullying, including suspension of bus riding privileges and consequences for students who see incidences occur but don't step in to help it stop.
- Setting up parent supervision at the school bus zones and neighborhood bus stops.
- Volunteering to ride the school bus to help increase supervision.
- Raising money to install security cameras on school buses to identify bullies and provide evidence of poor behavior.
A Final Thought
School bus bullying can make school a torturous experience rather than a fun opportunity for learning, and thousands of students are subjected to intimidation and abuse while riding to and from school every day. By recognizing the signs of bullying, knowing how to react to it, and getting involved to prevent bullying, both parents and students can make the school bus the first step toward a bully-free learning environment.