Colorado’s Douglas County School District has introduced an enhanced bus-safety program featuring “bus behavior contracts” after a driver alleged she was “body-slammed” by a student after she verbally disciplined him.
Disciplinary problems such as fighting and hurling objects had surfaced in the district previously. But last year, just as the district began looking at ways to address the issue, the incident with the driver “pushed discussion to the forefront,” said Steve Morrison, executive director of support services for the Douglas County School District.
Now, the district has introduced a new program aimed at reducing the disruptions that distract drivers and jeopardize safety. It was crafted over the past six months by a team of parents, assistant principals, transportation administrators, and bus drivers.
Under the program, bus-behavior contracts, which students have been signing for years, have been rewritten in simpler language that holds students more accountable for their behavior.
In the contracts, students agree to stay seated, respect the bus property, and talk softly. They also agree not to litter or carry weapons or illegal substances on the vehicle.
The program requires middle and high school students to show school identification badges before boarding a bus, and it requires drivers and assistant vice principals to follow up on disciplinary procedures within 24 hours after a violation.
Roughly 8,000 district students ride buses, Morrison said. All schools will be using the new contracts by July.
Students appear receptive to the contracts, he said, although remembering to carry identification can be a nuisance.
“I think it’s kind of a good thing, but sometimes it gets old to show them,” said Jordan Haag, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Sagewood Middle School in Parker.
Erin Kendall, 13, takes the bus to Cresthill Middle School in Highlands Ranch. The seventh grader said the rules keep students in line.
“If they didn’t have rules, people would be everywhere. People would get hurt. The driver would get hurt,” she said.
Discipline for those who violate the rules can range from a verbal warning to a few days of suspension from the bus to a loss of bus privileges for the year.
Drivers and assistant principals are required to keep one another informed whenever action is taken.
Victoria Roundtree, one of the district’s 150 bus drivers, said the biggest difference with the new program is that rules are more consistent and fair.
The program, she said, should educate parents who “have no clue what it is to drive a 30-foot vehicle down the road and you are not only responsible for driving those kids safely, but watching in a mirror without taking your eyes off the road.”
Douglas County School District
620 Wilcox Street
Castle Rock, CO 80184
phone (303) 688-3195