Establishing Positive Behavior On The Bus

The Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program provides students with incentives to meet and exceed behavioral expectations. Officials who work for a Maryland middle school say they have seen a change among students since implementing the program, and that it is a useful tool for the bus environment.

Disciplining students is never an easy thing to do. When you hear of a student being disciplined in school or on the bus, what picture comes to your mind? The Encarta Dictionary defines discipline as punishment, “designed to teach somebody obedience” or training, “the practice or methods of teaching … acceptable patterns of behavior.”

Bus drivers often struggle to create and carry out a plan of discipline that works consistently. Writing bus rider discipline referrals for students who break the rules on the bus seems to be one of the more common forms of discipline that drivers utilize. What if there was a way to train the students to behave, gaining control and the respect of the students on a bus, without punishing them by “writing them up”?

In this article, I will discuss a program that can help drivers accomplish this.

Positive Behavior Intervention and Support
In their book Responding to Problem Behavior in Schools: The Behavior Education Program, authors Deanne Crone, Leanne Hawken and Robert Horner write, “Students today present with diverse needs and present educators with a unique set of challenges (e.g., English as second language, difficulties associated with low socioeconomic status, significant learning and behavioral needs). To be effective in supporting all students, schools need to implement a continuum of positive behavior support.”

Related Article: Strategies for Managing Discipline Problems on the School Bus

A program has been implemented across the U.S. called Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS).

Julius West Middle School in Rockville, Md., implemented a PBIS program three years ago, and through the program, the school has been able to provide students with positive incentives to meet and exceed behavioral expectations in the classroom, cafeteria and hallways.

In an article titled “Positive Behavior Support” in the Teaching Exceptional Children journal, Kelly L. Morrissey, Hank Bohanon and Pamela Penning say, “Teaching and acknowledging appropriate behaviors on a prevention-oriented basis, rather than reacting through suspension once a problem occurs, may be the first step in turning the tide toward safer schools designed for keeping students in school and experiencing success.”

The PBIS program is flexible, in that it can be designed for high-risk individuals, at-risk small groups and the general student populations at schools.

Including bus drivers in the program
The Montgomery County Public Schools bus operators who drive for Julius West Middle School faced struggles with their students’ behavior similar to those of most bus drivers across the country. Some students chose to stand in their seats, hang their hands or heads out the window, jump from seat to seat, talk disrespectfully to each other and the driver or eat food on the bus.

In previous school years, the only tool available to the drivers was to have the security team or administrators come on the bus to talk to the students, or write discipline/referral forms for the offending students. Although these measures resulted in some success, it was often temporary.

This pattern, as well as a general frustration with poor behavior on<p>Administrators at Julius West Middle School in Rockville, Md., are working with Montgomery County Public Schools the buses, led to a cooperative venture between transportation and the school. The transportation supervisors and administrative staff at Julius West Middle School discussed ways that the drivers could be a part of the PBIS program run in the school. The drivers were trained by the Julius West administrative staff in September on the specifics of the program that apply to them.

“We were very pleased that our drivers wanted to work with us to support our PBIS/ROAR [Respect, Organization, Achievement, Responsibility] program,” Julius West Principal Nanette W. Poirier says. “Using this program across all school settings, including transportation, sends the message to students that behavioral expectations are universal. Our collaboration also conveys the message that the adults who work with them are consistent and work together.”

By including the bus drivers in the PBIS program, the school administration’s team has received fewer referrals and parent complaints.

Components of PBIS/ROAR
The mascot of Julius West Middle School is a jaguar, and the school created the ROAR acronym to help the students remember the behavioral expectations in the school.

The school provided the bus drivers with the ROAR message specifically designed for transportation, to be posted on the bus. Included in their packet was “JW Dough” (wallet-size slips of paper), to be given to student passengers whom the drivers catch being good.

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