Cost Effective Strategies to Stop Bullying on the Bus

Anonymous tip programs ensure threats and incidents are reported.

The nation watched in shock recently as four middle school boys barraged 68 year-old bus monitor Karen Klein with verbal abuse, jabs about her weight, attacks on her family and chuckled as they made violent and graphic threats. We also watched as Klein remained quiet, taking the abuse and failing to respond to the students. This incident may have gone unnoticed and unreported had not one of the young teenagers posted a 10-minute video of the harassment on YouTube.

As the video went viral and support poured in for Karen, many school districts and parents began asking themselves, could that happen on our buses, in our community, at our school?

There are valuable lessons to be learned from this incident to help prevent future situations from escalating in schools.

Related Article: Fundraiser for Bullied Bus Monitor Raises Nearly $700k

Do school administrators have any clue what is happening to students, bus monitors and/or drivers on the way to and from school? Perhaps more importantly, are bus monitors and drivers properly trained with the right information on how to respond if students are abusing or bullying them? Do the bus monitors understand their roles and responsibilities for responding to the bullying or harassment of students? What type of role do the monitors provide towards the safety of the students on the bus?

In the movie Bully, one of the students featured was tortured and bullied daily on the bus, but due to a lack of awareness and reporting, school administrators and parents were clueless about the situation. How can we ensure these incidents do not continue to go unnoticed?

Schools Must Connect the Dots

These incidents and others clearly reveal drastic disconnects and gaps existing between school administrators and policy and what is happening on buses, in locker rooms, in hallways, at sporting events, online and numerous other locations where bullying and abuse is taking place. In recent studies, 65% of victims said bullying was not reported by them or others to teachers or school officials. Even when a bullying victim had suffered injury, 40% of the time the students said the bullying was not reported. In fact, studies show 80-90% incidents are not reported, leaving school leaders in the dark. 

There are a number of reasons for this, including students’ fear of retaliation from their bully, embarrassment, they may feel their reports will be ignored or they may feel reporting will only make the situation worse. Many times students don’t know where or who to turn to, they don’t trust the administration or law enforcement or may have not real anonymous reporting options.   

Campuses Must Investigate Incidents

All schools are required by the Office of Civil Rights to investigate bullying incidents and take immediate action to stop harassment and prevent its recurrence.  If the school knows or reasonably should know about student harassment and fails to address its effects and take appropriate action, they are opening themselves up to federal investigations and expensive lawsuits. It is critical for school districts to implement comprehensive policies and procedures for identifying, reporting, investigating and responding to incidents of bullying and harassment. 

Several Midwest schools, including Tulsa Public Schools, are taking proactive action to empower their students, personnel, parents and others with the ability to report incidents (anonymously or non-anonymously).  

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