School bus drivers frustrated by administrative inaction
11:47 PM, Feb 4, 2014
School bus discipline reports showcase bad behavior that may shock parents . But the most frustrating part for drivers is having to pick up problem children they've written up over and over again.
After looking through hundreds of local school bus discipline reports, it's obvious some rides are rougher than others. ABC2 Investigators spotted high schoolers mixing vodka cocktails in their seats, middle schoolers talking classmates into performing oral sex As well as threats and violence that occurred not just between students but also against the drivers.
Craig Joyner is familiar with the kind of behavior drivers have to tolerate. He drove a school bus for decades. He said it was often a powerless position when students acted out.
"If they do something to the aides or something to the driver, there's nothing we can do about it," Joyner said.
Drivers can however write up problem students in the discipline reports, which are submitted to administrators for action. Many of the incidents we saw involved issues between students and drivers.
In Carroll County, a student was suspended after head butting a bus driver. In Anne Arundel County, cops were called after a bus operator was knocked to the ground trying to break up a fight. And in Howard County several reports show students physically threatening the driver, including one incident where a student told a driver she wanted to kill her with a knife in her backpack.
"Kids get mad at their parents before they leave the house," Joyner said, "They bring that on the bus. They take it out on you. They take it out on other kids that are on the bus and makes your whole job chaos."
Anne Arundel County Public Schools puts its drivers through rigorous training to handle conflict. Driver Safety Manager Vikki Williams puts new and experienced drivers through the paces so they can stay focused on operating the bus safely.
"Our goal is to keep drivers out of all the drama, if you will, and kids are definitely trying to bring the drama. Kids are kids," she said.
Drivers have to be both a safe operator and an enforcer on the rare occasions when students get out of hand, she added/
"I'm being the bad guy but it's in their best interest of safety so I'm not really being the bad guy," Williams said.
But that doesn't always mean these drivers feel good about what they have to deal with. Joyner said many drivers grow tired of writing up problem students again and again, without seeing action.
"It's frustrating to pull back up the next day when you know this kid went off on you the day before," Joyner said. "It's frustrating to pull up and pick that kid up again."
The reports show some children are written up repeatedly before serious action is taken. Consequences range from conversations with parents to suspension from the bus or school.
Bus drivers told ABC2 the key is patience. They know the process needs to take its course, so they wait behind the wheel – protecting themselves and keeping the peace among their passengers.
"It takes a special type of person to handle this job efficiently and effectively," Williams said. "Not everybody was cut out to be a school bus driver."