Bus Supervision: When Small Spaces Create Large Risks

According to the Department of Education, ten percent of bullying happens on buses. And that’s not the only risk.

Confined spaces, a wide range of ages, and limited visibility all contribute to the potential for harm to happen. From children getting left behind on a vehicle, to a staff member sexually abusing a child while seated on a crowded bus—Redwoods has investigated many incidents that have happened on buses.

Here are some important aspects to consider to prevent these incidents from happening at your organization:

Before Boarding the Bus 

  • Set clear expectations regarding bus behavior which includes anti-bullying policies and physical and behavioral boundaries
  • Create the rules, together, with the children and post them on the bus. A portable rule board can be made for those who rent buses infrequently.
  • Communicate rules with parents/guardians and collect a signed acknowledgment from children and parents/guardians
  • Review rules periodically for daily transport of kids, and review rules prior to boarding the bus for infrequent use
  • Ensure the driver knows the route and is solely focused on driving, not supervision

Boarding the Bus 

  • Keep a roster of the children in your care to ensure all children have entered the bus
  • Greet each child by name as they enter, noticing body language and demeanor
  • Seat children starting at the front of the bus, leaving no gaps
  • Assign buddies and ensure children of similar ages are paired together
  • When possible, seat children near those of a similar age
  • After everyone is boarded, walk through the aisle checking each seat and acknowledging each child
  • Position staff in the back of the last seat occupied and in the middle of the bus. If more than two staff, spread additional staff throughout the bus.
  • If only one staff member is present, position in the middle of the bus
  • Have staff and children give an “all clear” to the driver when everyone is seated and ready to roll

Staff Responsibilities on the Bus

  • To eliminate distraction, use of cell phones should be used for emergency purposes only
  • Listen to youth and their conversations to notice any unusual silence or inappropriate language
  • Use hand signals to communicate with other staff on the bus
  • Lead periodic buddy checks to assist with active supervision
  • Lead or start cheers/chants with active hand motions to help keep youth engaged and allow you to be aware of anyone who is not participating
  • Redirect inappropriate behavior and conversations right when it is recognized
  • Let children know you care about their safety and are actively participating

Exiting the Bus

  • Have at least one staff member remain on the bus while kids exit. Preferably located behind youth.
  • Have at least one staff member greet children as they get off the bus, noticing body language and any change in behavior
  • After all children have left the bus, walk up and down the aisle to ensure no child or property was left behind

Suggested Rules to Post on the Bus (not all-encompassing) 

  • Always wear seatbelt
  • Face forward with back against the seat at all times
  • Objects should stay in backpacks or on laps
  • Use appropriate and kind language at all times
  • Keep hands and feet to yourself at all times
  • No tolerance for bullying behavior—verbal or physical
  • If you hear or see something that doesn’t feel right—say something
  • Follow expectations at all times