Montrose schools slam brakes on bus bullies
Montrose County School District bus drivers are saying no to bullies.
First Student, the transportation company that provides bus service for the district, implemented an anti-bullying program this fall called NO BUS for Bullies. The idea grew out of discussion among First Student employees this summer after a YouTube video of students taunting an elderly bus monitor gained national attention.
“We haven’t tolerated bullying and we take aggression seriously,” said Carmen Hays, First Student’s location manager in Montrose. “We decided this summer to take it one step further.”
The program has five steps for bus drivers to follow. First, drivers are asked to pull over and stop the bus if a bullying issue is brought to their attention. Drivers can wait to stop if it is a safety hazard to stop immediately or if the sudden stop will make it obvious one particular child has reported the bullying. Sometimes a tip is as discrete as a student dropping a note in the driver’s lap as they get off the bus.
Second, drivers are asked to listen to all students who report bullying and get both sides of the story without passing judgment. Next, drivers tell the reporting student they will take the bullying seriously and investigate the situation. Drivers are then asked to report details of the incident or incidents on a form created for the program. Hays reviews the reports and completes the final step, which is to follow through with school principals to decide how the situation will be handled on the bus and, if applicable, at the bully’s school. Reports are tracked to see if the bullying continues or ends.
Students get a green slip and possibly some detention time for a first offense. The slips are part of a three-strikes system. A second offense means another slip and three days off the bus. A third green slip for continued bullying means the student does not get to ride the bus, even for school field trips, for the rest of the school year. Hays said she will sometimes skip directly to the final green slip if a student’s first offense involves a serious threat, a weapon or vandalism.
“The point is if a kid chooses to make a bad choice, there are consequences. They have to find other means” to get to school, she said.
The program has already inspired some students to come forward for themselves or others, including a student who reported a boy was being bullied at school and on a bus. That boy now feels he has enough support to tell the bullies to stop, Hays said. Students who come forward can earn a certificate and those who support the program get a NO BUS for Bullies wristband. The bands are becoming a hot item, according to Hays, as students gain the understanding it’s cool to stop bullying.
“(Bullying) has always been there. I don’t think there’s an increase, it’s just now people are willing to talk about it and say it’s wrong,” she said.
First Student buses about 3,000 students in the Montrose school district. In addition to No BUS for Bullies, the drivers have cameras and audio in the front and back of buses to combat bad behavior.