How To Handle Rowdy Kids on a School Bus

If you’re a superintendent, it’s no secret that your job might be a little more difficult than you would like. Students are often unruly, and their behaviors can be troublesome for your staff. We’ll give you a few tips on handling rowdy kids on your school buses to keep your bus driver’s blood pressure low and their social skills refined. Let’s look at more below.

Offer Your Drivers Full Support

If you’re a superintendent or transport director, the first thing you need to do is enact positive change in your schools. Make sure your bus drivers are adequately trained for the worst-case scenarios. Students are likely to have fights, and sometimes they can even harass their driver. How does your staff operate under pressure? Some of these behavioral issues stem from mental illness in the student; others stem from poor social skills or even problems in the home. 

The key is compassion. Make sure you emphasize that to your staff, especially the ones that seem desensitized to it. It’s easy to become desensitized to the suffering of these children when you see the same problems and troublesome behaviors enacted over and over. It’s easy for them to go into “punishment” mode rather than “compassion” mode. Retrain them to express empathy in these situations.

Consistency Is King

The last thing you want your staff to do is to act inconsistently with your punishment or positive reinforcement. Make sure you give staff consistent rules to follow, and if possible, make an appearance on the bus yourself to show students that your drivers have full support. 

Consistency is king when it comes to disciplinary action. Set up a plan with your staff that will allow them to address any situation that’s undesirable consistently and rapidly, and with whatever protocol you’ve deemed necessary. Create a manual detailing common problems and follow that protocol through to the end. Do this repeatedly until your students get the point: you won’t tolerate misbehavior. 

Form a Better Relationship With Parents

Your students have to come from somewhere. If your staff consistently complains about a certain child’s behavior, make it a point to meet with the parents. If there’s a problem on the bus, there’s likely a problem in your classrooms. Children that act out rarely stop acting out once they get in class, so you’ll likely see a track record of bad behavior. 

If this is the case, and they seem to go to the counselor’s office one too many times, it’s time to set up a meeting between your bus staff, teachers, parents, and the student. This way, everyone is involved. They can offer the student all the support and resources needed to succeed at school and in life. 

For many people in your position—either as a superintendent, principal, or administrator—it’s easy to see a child’s behavior and become frustrated. Instead of letting your annoyance take over, consider asking the parents if the child has any mental issues or challenges at home. This can cause them to act out on your buses. If you can’t handle the issue, direct them to social services that can help. Remember—including everyone can get you the support you need. 

Video Surveillance

A very sneaky way to implement behavioral adjustment is to place video surveillance on the buses if your state laws permit it. Not only will this prove useful in the case of an accident or serious incident on the bus, but it can also be useful to record problem behaviors. You now have a record to show parents for their children. Sometimes, in a misguided method of safeguarding their children, parents are in denial about their behavior. This will provide them with proof of any maladaptive behavior.

In addition, it’s a little-known fact that surveillance cameras can positively alter human behavior. We’re on our best behavior when we feel we’re being watched. Cameras can help curb harmful activity and rowdy behavior on the bus.

Consequences Matter

You have to outline what you want the consequences of student misbehavior to be in the long run. It would help if you didn’t punish everyone for one person’s misdeeds. I know this may seem to make everyone accountable for each other’s behavior on the surface, but it breeds resentment. If you’re going to be punished regardless, what’s the point of behaving? Instead, make your consequences concise and logical. If you’ve presented a code of conduct to your passengers and parents beforehand, it shouldn’t be surprising that those consequences are in place. 

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement for a student on their best behavior is key. You can get creative with this. Create a reward system where you can give prizes and recognition for good behavior. The prize could be anything from a cookie at the counselor’s office to allowing your student to work from home. Coordinate with teachers to ensure this is okay, and brainstorm—you might have some good ideas to implement in real-time. 

You catch more flies with honey rather than vinegar, and though you are a superintendent, you aren’t a taskmaster or dictator. Your primary objective should be the well-being and safety of your children, especially on the bus. You can best implement this by adequately rewarding your students consistently. This is the inverse of the previous punishment system, but not contradictory: you should balance punishments with rewards. You don’t want rewards to come as a surprise or on an inconsistent basis, as they’ll lose their spark. 

Keep Students Busy

Keep your kids busy when they get on your bus. To encourage reading, you can start a program, give them books to read, and create a mini book club where your student discuss the chapters you read on the way to school and home. Rather than misbehaving, this will keep them busy. You can pair up with your local library or book fair to make this happen. 

You could put the books in a basket and only allow students to read on the bus. It would be wise to tailor whatever you decide to do to the student’s needs. This goes back to having a strong relationship with parents and counselors so you know your passengers and what they like.

Foster Relationships

I know it’s easy to turn your heart off, but behavioral problems don’t come anywhere. Take time to be gentle and patient with these kids. We understand that you aren’t exactly their parents or therapists. However, you’ll be surprised what a smiling face and compassionate disposition can do for a struggling kid. 

In short, there are many ways to wrangle rowdy children. It’s not the end of the world, but you can expect your authority to be tested regularly as a superintendent. As long as you maintain good relationships with the children, parents, and bus drivers, it should be relatively simple. Keep your kids busy and tell them you care about them, as empathy is a huge part of the job.

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How To Handle Rowdy Kids on a School Bus
Mike Curtis

Mike Curtis

Mike Curtis General Manager National Bus Sales

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