School Buses an Ideal Environment for Bullying

The closed space and the lack of adult supervision on school buses often means that victims of bullying cannot escape their attackers.

School buses serve as a setting for as much as 10% of all bullying incidents in the country, according to the data collected by the U.S. Department of Education. The reality, however, could be much worse, since as many as two-thirds of all bullying incidents that take place in the U.S. schools are never reported. A recent article on Slate.com explained that limited space and lack of adequate supervision make school bus bullying notoriously hard to control and reduce.

Jeremy Stahl, writing at Slate.com, said that he polled his colleagues about their own and their kids’ experiences and many recalled incidents that took place on a school bus as the worst cases of bullying they had ever experienced. One even said that school bus harassment was so prevalent at his school that his mother, a teacher, arranged for him to carpool at the beginning and the end of the day to protect him from the abuse.

The research backs up these anecdotes. A 2005 study from the Journal of School Violence reported that two incidents of bullying occurred for every bus ride they monitored. According to a 2007 report by the National Center for Education Statistics, middle school students are most likely to be bullied on a bus. This is also the same age that students are also most likely to be injured by bullying. What is it about buses that make them such an ideal venue for this kind of behavior?

Those in charge of looking after the kids on the bus ride to and from school are also limited in the kind of discipline they can impose. While school staff has the power to impose punishments like suspension and detention, bus drivers, and, in the rare cases when they are present, adult monitors, have their hands virtually tied. Those that try to intervene often feel ill-equipped to do so. Slightly more than 55% of bus drivers said that they received training on how to protect a victim of bullying from the abusers, according to the 2010 survey conducted by the National Education Association.

The problem of school bus bullying recently got extensive attention after kids posted a video of several 7th graders harassing their monitor, 68-year-old Karen Klein, by throwing insults at her until she was in tears. The incident, which was captured in three cell-phone videos and posted in YouTube, went viral with many calling on Klein to pursue criminal charges against her attackers. Klein felt that the school system was in a better position to administer punishment. Shortly after the videos first came to light, the Greece School District in Upstate New York announced that four kids who led the bullying were suspended from the school for one year.

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