At the beginning of this calendar year, Platte County School District kicked off a new program on three elementary bus routes (one at each elementary - Siegrist Elementary’s Bus Route 218, Compass Elementary’s Bus Route 205, and Pathfinder Elementary’s Bus Route 254) with a goal to develop a positive and safe environment on the school bus for all students. The “Peaceful School Bus Program” is designed to create a climate of respect and cooperation, while decreasing inappropriate behaviors on buses, and embedding student, staff, and parent ownership throughout the process.
Bus drivers, building principals and other staff members have initially met with students on these routes to discuss:
- What does an ideal bus looks like?
- What is the job of each student, bus driver, principal, parent in achieving an ideal bus?
- How can we improve our bus route?
Groups will continue to meet throughout the year to check in on progress and build the bus route relationship. “The plan is to see how these three pilot routes improve and pursue rolling out the Peaceful Bus Program to all elementary buses next school year,” JT Thomas, District Transportation Director explains.
In these initial meetings, students identified being safe, being kind, and being a leader as ways they can improve their bus route. “It was interesting to see what the students identified as ways drivers and parents could improve their bus ride experience,” Siegrist Assistant Principal Kali Young noted. Examples included help from their parents on telling time so they won’t miss their bus, both parents and drivers assisting students to make good decisions and celebrating when they do, and just telling students to have a good day.
“In just a few weeks of the rollout on Bus Route 218, we’ve already seen some benefits,” Thomas reported. “Discipline referrals have decreased, and we’ve seen some bus leadership emerging.”
Students in the higher grades are paired with younger students during meetings to foster a “mentoring” relationship, so that when they are on the school bus, older students take on a positive, protective role with younger students. One kindergartener has had some difficulty staying seated. A fifth grader has taken ownership and volunteered to be the younger student’s helper to keep her safe.
“It’s our hope that this program will help to create greater trust among all stakeholders in the school bus: students, parents, school staff members, and transportation staff members alike,” Young adds, “We are all responsible in helping to create a safe and caring environment for our students, not just in our buildings, but on our buses, too.”