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Bus Bullying: Be Aware, Be Prepared

Bus Bullying, tips and tools to help your child have a safe, fun and bully-free bus ride.

Why Bullies Pick the Bus

This is a very fun time of year. Students all across the country are returning to school. It should be a fun, joyous experience for every student. But for some students, there is fear and loathing. It means that they will be exposed to those that bully.  As much as schools, parents, and police have worked to eliminate bullying in schools there has been little done to eliminate it on the bus.  As a result for bullies interested in picking on their peers, the school bus is the ideal location

Why is it an ideal location? For obvious reasons, 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, the targets 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 targets 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 can, however, 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. We need to educate lunch moms, adults and cafeteria staff to recognize the signs.

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

Current studies have indicated 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 a normal and admirable, such heroics may not help the situation because the parent cannot be present every time an incident may occur. Youth need to be given the tools to successfully navigate the potential issues as they arise. There are steps that students and parents can take to prevent or stop bus bullying.

Students can…

  • 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.

Allow me to tell you about what my son, Bobby, did for a young girl on his school bus just at the end of the school year. Now Bobby, is by no means a large or imposing boy. However, he is very confident, funny and extremely witty. Bobby has also had to deal with several health-related issues that as a result size-wise make him much smaller than other boys his age. We have gone out of our way to prepare him to deal with issues of bullying and to address those issues with confidence.

Now returning to this story. This young girl, a neighbor and sister of our eldest daughter’s best friend, had been routinely picked upon by a boy. For what reason we do not know, but he felt that he could pick on a girl that was not only smaller, but could never be intimidating to a sixth grade boy. Typical profile of a bully, right?  Bobby observed what the bully was doing just as they were sitting down on the bus. Bobby walks over to the young girl, gives her arm a squeeze and says, “I think she can take you Dominic, I would watch out!”  The boy never said another thing to that little girl nor did he say anything to Bobby. Bobby simply went to sit down with his friends and the issue was over. We only learned about this story when the mother of the little girl told it to my wife. Because her daughter thought it was so cool that Bobby stood up for her without making a big issue of it. That is almost text book for standing up for another student who is being bullied. It’s also what every parent wants to hear about what their child has done to help another. Yes, I am proud of him.

Parents can…

  • 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.
  • Use your parent teacher organizations or associations.
  • 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 incidents 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.
  • Speak to your school administrators about training bus drivers to be aware of bullying on the bus.
  • Raising money to install security cameras on school buses to identify bullies and provide evidence of poor behavior.

To conclude

School bus bullying can make school a tumultuous experience rather than a fun opportunity for learning. 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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Pam DeFiglio August 23, 2012 at 04:18 PM
A few months ago I saw a great movie called Bully (2011), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1682181/. It's a very strong documentary that follows five kids who are bullied, including two who committed suicide because of it. Also, bravo to your son! Looks like his quick thinking nipped it in the bud. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUy2ZWoStr0

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