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As a new school year begins, many parents will watch their children board those ubiquitous yellow buses with little cause for concern.   Unfortunately for some children, the school bus ride can be fraught with danger.  With long rides, unstructured time and only one adult, who has to focus on driving, the school bus is often a place where bullying occurs.  What constitutes bullying?   “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.  The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time and may include threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.” (U.S. Dept of Education)

According to the U.S. Department of Education almost 10 percent of bullying related to schools occurs on school buses.  Unfortunately, any child perceived as different is at risk, including LGBTQ youth, students with physical disabilities, youth of color and/or English-language Learners.   Additionally many students at risk of being bullied also may become involved in bullying behaviors, either directly participating or as a supportive bystander.

With such statistics, what’s a parent to do?  First, talk to your child; ask about their experience riding the bus as part of routine conversations.  Make sure your child know the rules and expectations regarding their own behavior and ways to avoid peer pressure.   Help your child understand the difference between tattling and speaking out for what’s right. Get to know the bus driver; many live in their school districts.  Ask school administrators how they are dealing with bullying and how they train their bus drivers.   Know the signs that your child may be bullied

  • unexplained physical injuries
  • lost or broken personal items
  • loss of friends
  • changes in eating patterns or behaviors,  including not wanting to ride the bus or go to school
  • decline in grades
  • unexplained headaches or stomach aches
  • declining self-esteem

If you suspect bullying, notify the school at once. Engaged parents and local schools can make a difference.  Get involved. Together school buses can become true “bully-free zones.”

Safety Exit