The director of Bibb schools' transportation department, Todd Harris, says student misbehavior that becomes a safety concern is nothing new in the school district.
"The more risky type of behavior," said Harris, "the fights and things like that, have seemed to escalate in the last two years."
It's not just fights. He rattled off a list of common bad behavior, including disrespecting drivers, cursing, vandalizing school buses, and throwing objects out of the windows.
And the bad behavior is constant.
"In layman's terms, daily," he said. "Daily, we encounter these same problems. Route to route, in some areas of town, a little more frequently than others."
These issues and more are outlined in a safety audit of the district by Safe Havens International.
The report recommends more training for transportation employees on handling conflicts, emergencies and special needs, as well as automated incident reporting.
Harris will head up a transportation safety task force that will use the safe haven report to identify and solve problems like weapons on school buses.
"There's always been concern about weapons on school buses," said Harris. "That's a tough one to prevent, but I think we'll extend some of the random wand searches that they do at schools on the bus ramps."
The task force will work to ensure procedures and expectations are the same across the district, while targeting interventions to problem areas.
"We have high incidence areas in all parts of the county," said Harris. "But specific neighborhoods, apartment complexes, things like that seem to be where the most occurences tend to come from."
For Harris, the task at hand has practical safety implications, but it's also about boosting morale among his employees.
"Yeah, it absolutely affects morale," he said. "Drivers have an extremely tough job just managing traffic, and these discipline issues don't help."
Transportation employees were able to voice their concerns directly to Superintendent Romain Dallemand last week according to Harris.
One of those concerns, according to Safe Haven, is there wasn't enough or effective action from school administrators when they reportdiscipline incidents on the bus.
"The bus is considered a classroom," said Harris, "Same disciplinary measures that go on in the schools should be applied to the school bus. It has been inconsistent across the district-- that's not new. I think the commitment form our administration and out superintendent will bring some accountability so that these are addressed in a timely and appropriate manner."
Harris is finalizing the members of the task force, but he says he plans to have them meet by the end of October. In the mean time, he says people in the community can help by making sure students are at the correct bus stop, that they are properly registered, and that adults don't become part of the problem.
"We have had parents and community members boarding a bus," said Harris. "Loading and unloading students is a critical time for bus drivers. If you're interfering with that drivers duties or causing them to alter their route, it's against the law."
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