Originally created 10/12/03

Schools enforce bus rules



Glenda Ray sounds like a proud parent when she talks about her children.

"I don't have a problem keeping mine in line. They know what I expect, and they do it," said Ms. Ray, who drives Bus 202 every day to Harlem High, Harlem Middle and Euchee Creek Elementary schools.

But it wasn't the same story last year, her first year driving the route.

"I wrote a lot of disciplinary referrals last year, and there were a lot of them kicked off the bus for 10 days at a time," said Ms. Ray, who has been driving a bus for eight years.

Though some teachers struggle to maintain discipline in the classroom, a bus driver has to supervise twice as many children while maneuvering a 15-ton vehicle through traffic. With safety in the balance, maintaining discipline is critical, and it is the reason schools have little tolerance when bus rules are broken.

"We are not going to be very lenient on misbehavior on a school bus," said Charles Nagle, Columbia County's associate superintendent for student and school services. "If there is someone on an everyday basis that is causing some kind of disruption, that's calling the driver's attention to them, that person will find they lose their privilege to ride."

In Columbia County, seating charts are the first step to establishing order.

"In case of an accident, we need to know where the students are seated," Mr. Nagle said. "Bus drivers can also move more active students towards the front of the bus so they can keep a closer eye on them."

A driver can request a video camera to record misbehavior, but Columbia County prefers using its five bus monitors, who can be assigned to a bus when problems arise. An aide rides in every special education bus.

Richmond County Transportation Director Mike Shinn said his department purchased cameras five years ago but found they were too much trouble to use.

"The tapes only last so long, and with 189 buses you would have to return them midday to change out the tapes," he said.

Instead, the system relies on 10 bus monitors to cool hot spots.

"If we have a specific problem, we will leave them on the bus long enough to address the issue, then they move on," Mr. Shinn said. "We have had situations where the principal will ride the bus home if there is a particular problem."

Richmond County buses are equipped with radios, while Columbia County bus drivers have cell phones. Bus drivers can pull off the road to use them when accidents, breakdowns or discipline problems arise.

"If we have to pull a bus over for a discipline reason, there is a good possibility the sheriff's office will be called, and they will be taken off that bus," Mr. Nagle said. "That driver is having to put the bus at a disadvantage by pulling in and out of traffic."

Richmond County does not keep statistics on the number of misconduct reports issued by bus drivers, but in Columbia County there were 248 bus discipline referrals last year.

"We're transporting 11,000 students a day," Mr. Nagle said. "If you had 248 offenses that were turned in 180 days, (that's) less than 1.5 per day for the system."

The bus is just an arm of the classroom, with the same expectations and the same consequences for misbehavior, Mr. Shinn said.

Discipline problems on the bus can make pupils late for school or late getting home and can create an unpleasant start or finish to a school day.

"It messes up their whole day just because somebody on the bus is doing something they shouldn't," Mr. Shinn said.

In addition to general bus safety rules, Mr. Nagle said, parents should talk to their children about the importance of getting to their seats, sitting down, remaining seated, speaking with a low voice and behaving.

Ms. Ray agreed that discussing expectations is the key to keeping order.

"You really have to stick to your guns on what you want them to do and don't give in to them," she said. "Being persistent has a lot to do with it."

BUS STATISTICS

School bus facts for Columbia County:

  • Serves 27 schools and about 11,000 pupils twice a day
  • Fleet includes 170 vehicles
  • Buses drive 150 routes
  • Buses average 13,500 miles daily
  • System employs 143 bus drivers, has 25 slots for bus assistants, 30 special education aides and five bus monitors
  • School bus facts for Richmond County:

  • Serves 60 schools and about 34,000 pupils twice a day
  • Fleet includes 189 vehicles
  • Buses drive 189 routes
  • Average daily miles unavailable
  • System employs 189 bus drivers, has 20 slots for permanent substitute drivers and 10 bus monitors
  • CONSEQUENCES

    Penalties for breaking bus rules, Columbia County:

  • Driver talks to child and uses behavior modification, such as moving them to a different seat.
  • If behavior continues, a discipline referral is sent to the school's principal. The punishment depends on the offense.
  • After two or more infractions, a pupil might temporarily lose the privilege of riding or be grounded for the entire year.
  • Punishment depends on the infraction. More serious offenses could result in an immediate loss of riding privileges.

    Penalties for breaking bus rules, Richmond County:

  • Driver gives pupil opportunity to correct behavior, says what pupil is doing wrong and notes the consequences. Driver can also assign pupil a seat closer to the front.
  • If behavior continues, a misconduct report is given to the principal, who will then take disciplinary action.
  • Richmond County uses the 1, 2, 3 rule. On the first offense, a pupil is verbally warned; second offense is a written warning with a letter sent home to the parent; riding privileges are revoked on the third offense.
  • Punishment depends on the infraction. More serious offenses could result in an immediate loss of riding privileges.

    BUS TIPS

    Bus-riding dos and don'ts

  • Be at the bus stop five minutes early.
  • Sit in your assigned seat.
  • No eating, drinking, tobacco, alcohol or drugs.
  • No fighting, pushing or disobedience.
  • Stay seated.
  • Keep your hands to yourself.
  • Don't open or close windows without permission.
  • Don't extend body parts, such as hands, outside the bus.
  • Don't spit or throw anything from the bus.
  • Don't tamper with bus equipment or operate any part of the bus.
  • No loud or offensive language or vulgar gestures.
  • Silence is required at railroad tracks.
  • Stow band instruments in laps or under seats.
  • No electronic devices, such as cell phones, pagers, radios or tape or disc players without headphones.
  • No animals, glass objects, hazardous materials, weapons or large items, such as plants, trees, balloons, flowers or posters.
  • No mirrors, lasers or flash cameras.
  • Pupils must have written parental permission to ride a different bus.
  • Source: Columbia County and Richmond County school systems

    Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or melhall@augustachronicle.com.