So how should your bus drivers handle bullying? Read on for some great tips to help de-escalate these difficult situations.
Use de-escalation techniques to prevent conflict
Utilizing active listening techniques will help drivers, aides and school staff to convince a volatile student that he or she is being heard. Phrases like “I understand how you feel” and “Explain that to me so I can help you” will put the ball in the student’s court, and encourage him or her to think about the situation. Drivers could also offer compromises or options — such as explaining the consequences of the student’s actions under school policy so he or she can make a decision.
Pay attention to sentence structure
When speaking to an angry or frustrated student, it is vital to place the most important information that you want to convey to the student at the beginning of sentences.
When people are agitated, they’re not going to listen to the whole sentence, so whatever you say first is really the only thing that they are going to hear. You need to say what is most important to the other person, not necessarily what is most important to you, as the driver.
For example, if a student is getting out of his or her seat because he or she is in a hurry to get home, the school bus driver should say, “I will get you home soon if you sit down,” as opposed to, “Sit down and I will get you home soon.”
Paraphrasing students’ words can help
A form of verbal de-escalation called paraphrasing can also help you to start a calming conversation with a frustrated student. When the student says something to you, you should repeat it back to the student in your own words. This will demonstrate that you are actively listening to his or her concerns.
People who are agitated or possibly on the verge of becoming aggressive want other people to respond to them, just the same way that a person in a normal conversation would. In the same vein, you can also offer students a second chance by asking them to start explaining their problem from the beginning.
Avoid aggressive body language
When approaching a volatile student, it is crucial to remain non-threatening. If you’re dealing with someone who is potentially violent, and you’re flinging your arms around because you’re getting excited, that rapid movement subconsciously triggers something in a violent person, which can make the situation worse. Have proper body language and display a sense of calmness to the person that you’re dealing with.
Drivers and aides should avoid charging at a student. If you have a student in the middle or toward the back of the bus who is getting agitated, the driver doesn’t want to walk down the aisle to that student. It’s seen as charging; you don’t want to encroach upon their personal space.
Don’t be verbally confrontational
In a similar vein, school personnel should not resort to yelling to achieve order in a classroom or on a bus, as it can actually make the situation worse.
Yelling "Sit down and shut up" or "I am in charge and you are not!" is no more successful on a bus than it is in a classroom or school hallway. At the same time, however, when a student crosses a line into irrationality, sometimes speaking slowly and quietly won’t cut it.
When someone is acting irrationally, sometimes it takes a loud voice or noise or unexpected action to stop the chain of irrational thinking and get his or her attention: yell "Stop" or "Listen."
Know where to pull over the bus
If you have a serious incident on the bus, you need to find a safe place to pull the bus off to the side of the road, contact dispatch and let them know what is going on. If necessary, call 911.
Where you pull your bus over is important. Boardman suggests that drivers check along their routes for safe places to park the bus — such as grocery store or church parking lots or side roads — as part of their emergency planning. Pulling over so that you can attend to the incident is safer than trying to drive at the same time.
By educating and training your bus drivers on how to handle difficult situations, you are empowering them and making a stand against bullying - both of which are noble causes.