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School Buses Breed Bullying

A video of a bullied bus monitor shines a spotlight on the challenges school bus drivers face.

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School bus drivers say bullying is an issue they aren’t adequately equipped to handle.
School bus drivers say bullying is an issue they aren’t adequately equipped to handle.

A video of students taunting, threatening, and degrading school bus monitor Karen Klein gave millions of people a 10-minute glimpse into a growing bullying epidemic.

Roughly 30 percent of middle school and high school students are bullied, and nearly 10 percent of the abuse happens on the school bus, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

[Parents, learn how to help your bullied teen.]

But the problem is likely much worse, since nearly two thirds of the incidents are never reported, the department estimates.

Limited supervision and a confined environment make school buses a hotbed for bullying, a recent Slate article notes.

"In my experience at least, bullying and the bus went together like peanut butter and jelly," writes Jeremy Stahl, the article's author.

While most drivers say bullying is a serious problem on their school buses, effectively juggling the monitoring of bullying while ensuring students arrive safely at their destinations is a significant challenge, notes the National Association for Pupil Transportation.

"There are typically far more children on a school bus than in a classroom, and the bus driver has to manage them all while operating a 10-ton vehicle and facing the opposite direction," NAPT officials pointed out in a 2010 release.

[Bullying happens online, too. Read more about cyber bullying.]

Insufficient training and bullying policies that don't address a bus driver's role only compound the problem, Mike Martin, executive director of the NAPT, said in a presentation last year. To address this issue, the NAPT and Department of Education developed a two-part training program specifically for school bus drivers.

Building a rapport with students by greeting them and addressing them by name can help drivers prevent bullying, according to the training materials. When bullying does occur, the training champions the "See something, do something" mantra, instructing drivers to warn the students and inform school administrators.

But school bus drivers are just that—drivers, not disciplinarians or social workers—and are limited in what they can do beyond reporting incidents, the NAPT points out. Beyond that, it is up to parents and school administrators to address bullying when it is reported.

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