While the driver's eyes will be on the road, Beverly Allen will have her eyes on the children.
Ms. Allen, sitting in the last seat of the school bus, will be one of 10 new Richmond County bus monitors helping ensure safety for students.
"I'm excited," she said. "I'm ready to go back to school now."
The Richmond County school board approved hiring the monitors in April to quell discipline problems on buses. In November, a middle school pupil involved in a fight fell off a bus and was run over before the driver realized what had happened.
The new employees doubled the school system's staff of bus monitors. The monitors can be moved around and placed on buses most in need of the additional discipline and help.
Armed with her pad of misconduct reports, Ms. Allen said, she's ready to take her station on the bus.
"I love people in general, all people, all colors, and I love children," she said. "I feel like children need to be disciplined. I feel like I would be a good asset."
Ms. Allen has experience working with children as a substitute teacher.
"There was one or two kids who would give me problems," she said. "When school was out, they would hug and kiss me and say, 'I love you, Ms. Allen.' "
Most pupils would mind her after being corrected once, she said.
"Even though they're not my kids, I treat them like they are," Ms. Allen said.
Bus monitors can be effective in handling disruptive students if the school system chooses to use them wisely, said Sallie Thomas, the president of the Transportation Workers Union of America Local 239.
"They need to be put on the buses that are having the problems," Mrs. Thomas said. "We don't need to keep eyes on them wondering what they're writing about us."
With traffic as it is, bus drivers face a tough task dealing with the need to have their full concentration on the road and not be distracted by misbehaving children, she said.
"You're having to watch the mirrors to watch traffic, but you're also having to watch the mirrors in the bus to watch the kids," Mrs. Thomas said.
Buses have students fighting "constantly, over and over," and some buses experience fights daily, she said.
"And you're not allowed to touch these kids," Mrs. Thomas said. "If they're just there waling on each other, you're not allowed to interfere."
The Columbia County school system uses a limited number of monitors and student volunteers to maintain safety on buses.
"Every special-needs bus has a bus monitor," said Dewayne Porter, the school system's transportation director. "That monitor is charged with assisting the driver and helping the students that are disabled."
The system also employs five roving bus monitors for its 155 regular bus routes.
"If we have one regular (education) bus that is unruly for a period of time, we try to put a monitor on the bus until the situation resolves itself," Mr. Porter said.
Bus rules are sent home with students at the beginning of the school year as part of their information packet.
"We expect them to comply with those rules for their safety," Mr. Porter said. "By putting them in their information packet, we expect parents to go over those rules with their students."
Bus drivers go over the rules with their riders at the beginning of each school year, he said.
In addition to drivers, the system also gets some help from an automated friend to spread the bus safety message.
"We have Buster the Safety Bus," Mr. Porter said. "It's a little remote-controlled bus we take around to different events and teach bus safety. I think that tool is one of the best tools we have, because it captures the children's imagination."
The system conducts two emergency evacuation drills each year for buses. The system employs student volunteers to help with evacuations.
"We request two or three mature students on each bus route and we get their parents' permission," Mr. Porter said. "They're instructed on several things: how to make an emergency call if something ever happens to the driver, how to stop the bus if the driver is ever incapacitated in some fashion, and how to help other students out of the back door of the bus in case of an emergency."
Aiken County also employs bus monitors, although the school system uses them sparingly and only when fear that something is going on or the situation requires a monitor, said Frank Roberson, the associate superintendent of instruction for Aiken County schools.
The county also has cameras on buses that are "strategically placed" and are often moved around without pupils' knowing they are there, Dr. Roberson said.
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