School district officials will stress the importance of eliminating bullying on school buses this year.
Bus drivers will receive additional training on how to identify and stop bullying incidents on the district’s fleet of 63 buses.
Mark DuBois and Mike Zaccone, the Police Department’s school resource officers, and Darryl Fennell, the school district’s executive manager of transportation, initiated the program after several middle school students verbally abusing Karen Klein, a 68-year-old school bus monitor, on a bus in upstate New York in June. The abusers’ profanity-laced insults were captured on video.
“We came to the conclusion that kids who are on buses, that is the first and last contact of the day with school that they have,” Zaccone said. “Their day could start bullying at 6:30 a.m. and end with bullying on the way home.”
Zaccone said that bullying used to be something that was confined to schools. When children went home, they no longer had to be concerned with being harassed by their schoolmates, he said.
“It is a 24-hour-a-day problem now,” Zaccone said.
Bus drivers will be shown the film “School Bus Security: A 21st Century Approach” and receive additional training on how to identify and prevent bullying on buses.
Drivers will immediately report incidents of harassment, intimidation, and bullying to a student’s principal.
Bullying has been a hot-button topic in the education community since Governor Christie into law in January 2011.
Drivers already attend student management classes and learn how to establish rules for appropriate behavior on buses.
“For some reason, kids and parents think that there is a different set of rules for behavior on buses than in the classrooms, but a bus is merely an extension of a classroom and the protocol should be the same,” Fennell said.
Fennell said officials plan on hosting assemblies to educate students about what constitutes proper behavior when riding on school buses.
“School bus drivers probably have the most important job in the district, in my opinion, because they are responsible for driving, making sure kids are safe, not getting into an accident, and now this,” Zaccone said.