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.

<p>Author Keith Lowery says the PBIS program can be designed for high-risk individuals, at-risk small groups and the general student populations.</p>“Students exiting the bus say to other students, ‘The driver gave me JW Dough because I didn’t act bad on the bus. You should try to get some too,’” says Frank Soohoo, assistant principal at Julius West.

The drivers are encouraged to give JW Dough to students who behave every day, as well as students who have a difficult time behaving on the bus.

Specific examples of when the JW Dough could be given include a student bringing an item forward to the driver that he or she found in the back of the bus, moving over to make room for another student or sitting down for the entire ride home (when the student has had previous issues in this area).

What drivers are saying
When asked about how the PBIS/ROAR program has benefitted him in his job, Harout Aghkekian, a bus operator for Julius West, had a lot to say.

“I have personally found it to be a very useful, powerful and positive tool, if used properly,” he says. “There are certain guidelines in which children are already expected to abide by while on the school grounds, however, just like their adult counterparts, children also enjoy recognition, acknowledgement and incentive for a job well done. Reception of an award has universally been proven to be the perfect gesture to showcase appreciation of many sorts.”

Aghkekian went on to say that even though he has only worked for the school
for a short time, he sees this method of discipline as the best method because it provides a positive tool to assist in keeping 50-plus kids from misbehaving, and seeking ways to earn JW Dough.

A culture of change
Soohoo shares one of his favorite stories regarding the school’s PBIS/ROAR program, which for him represents a change in culture for students at Julius West Middle School.

“Early September three years ago, before we started PBIS/ROAR, students laughed at other students who were asked to help do something by staff. After students who helped staff started to receive JW Dough, they were able to use them to purchase things at the ROAR store [the school store],” he says, adding that later, during lunch times, the school began to give away movie tickets and tickets to local sporting events.

To enter the drawing, students would place as much JW Dough in a box as they wanted, depending on how badly they wanted the prize. Tickets to the school dances were also sold with cash or with JW Dough.

“Through all these incentives, things began to change,” Soohoo says. “Later that same school year, when I asked a group of students to help me clean up, three refused and one agreed to help. When the task was completed, I handed the cooperative student four [slips of] JW Dough for helping me. The other three students moaned and asked to be allowed to clean up at another table.”

Soohoo believes this exemplifies the power of the program, in that the student who was mocked can now be a positive example to students who normally would not be willing to comply, thinking it would be “uncool” to help out.

“This year, I ask students to help and they do it with no one laughing or mocking them, and without having to give out JW Dough,” he adds. “I do believe we changed the culture. I hope for the same kind of culture change on the bus.”

A school bus with well-behaved students is an unfulfilled dream for many bus drivers across the country, so a positive cultural change on a bus would be beneficial to everyone involved.

Using researched-based, proven discipline measures on the school bus with a school’s full support should lead to a safe and less stressful bus ride.

At Julius West Middle School, the administration and transportation staff are doing just that by working together through the PBIS/ROAR program to provide the safest, most enjoyable ride possible for the drivers and their students.

Keith Lowery is a supervisor at Montgomery County Public Schools’ transportation department in Rockville, Md. From 1999 to 2008, he worked in the county’s safety and training department. Lowery received his bachelor’s degree in organizational psychology and development in 2007, and is currently working on a master’s degree in post-secondary and adult education. He first heard about the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support programs while working on a Master of Arts teaching special-education degree in 2009-10. Lowery can be reached at with comments or questions about this article.

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