How to Keep My Son Safe on the School Bus?

Updated on September 15, 2009
V.D. asks from Delaplane, VA
20 answers

My 5 year old just started taking the bus to kindergarten, he really likes school, the kids, and the bus ride. But the boy who is assigned next to him, also 5 (but not in his class) keeps hitting him, pinching him, and other things. I have spoken to the bus driver twice, who says non-committed things like "I'll keep an eye out" or "I'll try to put him (the other boy) in another seat." But doesn't do anything.

Next stop is the principal I guess. Anyone have any advice / experience? My son likes this boy, except for the bus ride (they are at recess together and get along then). I am really stressing out about him being injured! I was considering going to the other boy's house to meet the parent(s), not sure if that's a good idea. It's really bothersome when I spent the first 5 years of his life to be nice, no hitting, etc., and then have a mean kid sit by him and hurt him!

Thanks for the help!

(....also, WHY don't they wear seat belts on the bus?!...)

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J.U.

answers from Washington DC on

Definately got to the principal. If that doesn't help call the Dept of Transportation. If you feel that is too drastic and feel comfortable going to the childs parents maybe you can meet at a playground to make a positive come from the negative?? Hope this helps.
Good luck!
Jen

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L.R.

answers from Washington DC on

V., I totally agree with SM's approach. As she suggested, you can talk (firmly but still respectfully) to the driver once more and invoke the clear idea that you now want to speak to his or her supervisor -- often that is enough to get someone to take action. But at the same time, it is important to teach your son, today, to stand up for himself on the bus tomorrow morning. I don't mean hit or pinch back - no way, and your son likely will be the one who gets in trouble if he does that, not the kid who's the instigator. If your son verbally and strongly defends himself even once, it may cause the other kid to stop. The child may not be malicious; he's probably pushing your son's buttons just to get a response out your boy after a long day at schol, and a strong verbal response for the whole bus to hear may startle the other child out of it, especially if the two boys otherwise get along. I would work on this with your son right away, before another day passes, and role-play it, so he gets used to the sound of his own voice saying, "Stop that, you may NOT pinch me!" Not whining, not pleading, but a clear declaration that his space is HIS space.

I'd give it a couple of days of your son defending himself and if that does not make the child stop, or your son is just too shy about doing it (which is fine! He's only five and this is all new to him, and he may fear upsetting a "friend") -- then immediately request that your son have a new assigned seat mate on THAT DAY's bus home and afterward. I don't know who at the school would handle that request but I'd go in there in person, not call on the phone, and calmly tell them his seatmate needs to be moved that afternoon. They may react quickly and well, or they may be chilly towards you -- sometimes school administrators see such requests as interference by "helicopter parents" hovering over their kids too much--but if your son continues to be handled by this child, you have to intervene.

Remember one thing amid the natural upset you feel: The other little boy may indeed be a seasoned bully, but he may also be a kid who just doesn't have much maturity yet, or who has older siblings who "play" with him this way, or parents who don't set any limits, etc., so rather than make him the villain when you deal with the driver or school officials, you could approach this as "This boy seems to have a hard time keeping his hands to himself so they need to be separated for now."

But do look at helping your son develop skills to defend himself and speak up. No one should touch him in any way he doesn't want--now or in the future, so this is a good potential opportunity for him to learn.

When I was a kid I got bullied on the playground by some big girls in my class but it didn't last long because my mother took me aside and told me to defend myself in no uncertain terms. That gave me the guts to speak up and things didn't come to blows because the bullies were so shocked that the "nice girl" told them to back off that they did indeed leave me alone after that.

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J.P.

answers from Norfolk on

Dear V.,
I am a bus driver for the Chesapeake, Va school system. I also have two boys 15 and 6. I do not know why your sons driver hasn't separated the two boys yet, but you can call the transportation dept for your city's school and make a formal request. The director for your area is responsable for checking the problem out. You can go to your principle but they will be calling transportation any way. you'll get a faster response calling yourself. As for the seat belts there are a lot of answers, it depends who you talk to. For my part I have a few seat belts for the "little guys". However, by law, they can put as many as three to a seat. That's 70 some kids and one driver.Think about it with that many kids it may take 30 to 40 min. for pick up and delivery. That's a bigger adult-child ratio than in a class room under more environmental safety circumstances. If a situation occured and everyone had seat belts and they couldn't get out of them(panic, injured, etc.) they would need to cut the belt. The only tool to do that is up front with me. No other tools could be floating around or they become a weapon.(We do more than one run, more than one age group) If I am injured or can't make it to the back of the bus for any reason those kids are in danger.
With that said, your child is going to be alright. It is also hard to see all that goes on. If it happens again, have him call out "Bus Driver, he is hitting me again!" . There is a video tape on the bus that records voice and picture. It may not see in the seat but it will document his voice. It is insurance every ones story stays true. I hope this helps.

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K.F.

answers from Washington DC on

I don't think any mom is overreacting when they are sticking up for their kids....especially when it comes to bullying! Kids are mean! However, sometimes kids get their feelings hurt or don't know what bullying is, so I would ask you son to demonstrate on you how hard the boy is hitting...he could be playing around/rough-housing...many parents don't see anything wrong with that, whereas some kids aren't used to that kind of 'play.' Whatever the case, it is inappropriate behavior on the bus and if your child doesn't like it, then he shouldn't have to tolerate it. No child should have to be touched in any way if it is against their wishes, no matter how hard or soft. I wouldn't worry that he is in danger, though, especially if the other child is the same age/size, etc, no marks or bruises.....but I would ask how your son handles it when the other boy hits him - does he just sit there and take it? He should definitely speak up and tell the other boy "No - Don't hit me!" Sometimes that's all it takes for other kids to get the picture...and if the other boy does it again, tell your son to tell the bus driver immediately....he can raise his hand, etc. I would call the teacher and ask her if she has seen the same behavior in other circumstances between the two and ask her to intervene with the bus driver....if that doesn't work, then escalate to the principle. My son was bullied in Elementary school - he had a hard time speaking up for himself....and so I gave him step by step instructions on how to handle the situations, speak up, tell an adult, leave the area, etc....I found out one of the boys that was bothering him was just rough-housing, and once the teacher informed the boy's parent of what was happening, that behavior stopped immediately. He was just joking around and didn't know how to handle himself and was not very mature....but the mother told the boy to leave my son alone and he did. Since he has been in Jr. High, he said he has not been bullied - thank God - but it's only the beginning, so it's better to give them skills early on to deal with other kids - there's a lot of bad parents out there.

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M.G.

answers from Washington DC on

well first of all

if you have issues with this other kid, inform the principle and then tell your son to tell the other adult who is on the bus.

finally if you have an issue with no seat belt rule then you should just take your son off the bus and take him yourself. that way you also elimnate the bully problem for that time period of the day.

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E.V.

answers from Roanoke on

I would talk to his teacher or the principal. At the very least, your bus driver will know you mean business and might be more likely to do something! About the buses having seatbelts, the reason is that if they are in an accident, they could be trapped w/that many kids, trying to get them all out might be too hard if time is of the essence (like in a fire or if in water)! That is what I was told. I don't like it either, but when you think if it that way, its a bit easier to understand! My oldest son is in 1st grade and has a preschooler bother him sometimes, but they are friends too. I think it was just in the beginning, because it was all new to this younger boy. Mine has been in school since Aug 19. Sometimes just having your son stand up for himself, or even ask to be moved might help. If he tells the other kid he needs to stop because it hurts and he doesn't like it, and that if he doesn't stop, he will ask to not sit w/him anymore....? I don't know. This is where your son's teacher or the principal might be more helpful! Good luck!

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T.H.

answers from Norfolk on

i think seat belts are like 500 dolars each to be put in...so times that by how many seats there are and how many busses. then i've heard buss drivers complain about busses with them and how kids will hit other kids with the belts. then if there was an accident who is going to run up and down the buss unbuckling all th kids in a safe time frame to get them out. besides that bus is a tank unless another tank hits it or it rolls over the kids woundn't get much but a bruise or scratch from the accident anyway.

as for what you should do about the hitting i'd call the princepl e and tell them whats going on. let thm sdecide what to do then if it doesnt stop you call them back up and tell them what you are going to do. go to the kids parents. the rules on the bus are the same for in the classroom...hitting can get you in big trouble.

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K.P.

answers from Washington DC on

I completely understand what you are going through. We had a horrible time with my daughter on the bus last year with boys touching her inappropriately, children hitting her, and cursing on the bus. At least your bus driver has assigned seats. We did everything possible to help with the problem. We had her sit on the front of the bus so the bus driver could pay more attention to her. We talked to the school and they said its the bus company's problem not theirs. We called the bus company and they said unless the bus driver reported the issues they couldn't do anything about it. The thing that helped the most was having my husband go to the bus stop in the morning and confront the kids involved. This year she's not riding the bus at all because her school has changed to a K-8 community and the bus company did not separate the elementary and the middle school children. Hopefully you have more luck than we did. Sounds like you got some good advice, but know you're not the only one with these problems.

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C.D.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi V.,

boy, things start earlier and earlier now. I have had a child bullied on the bus (middle school) and a child bullied in first grade, so I will tell you what I did. First off, document everything your son tells you and what you did (talking to the bus driver, etc). Second, in Prince William County, they have videos on the bus and the school administration can look at the videos. (the day my daughter got hit on the bus, the video camera wasn't working....). The point to this is that all of this needs to go through the school. It is the school who takes disciplinary action of the children who cannot behave on the bus. I would demand that the boy who is bothering your son get a new seat today. If that doesn't happen, then contact the school, tell them what has happened, what you have done and that you want it changed. I will tell you, some elementary school staff will tell you that your son needs to stand up for himself. While that is all fine and good and I agree, it is the school's responsibility to protect and help every child. (I have some experience with all of this). Your child is young and it is his right to have a stress free ride to school.

I would not confront the family of the other child even if you know the family well. The reason being is that all of this behavior needs to be documented. The school will document all problems between your son and this child if you tell them about it. It could help in the future if the behavior continues with the other child. I say this because the child that bullied my daughter in middle school actually started in elementary school, the mother and I were very good friends and I tried to talk to her about her daughter's behavior. It didn't change anything and I had no documentation through the school when it all came to a head. The school counselor told me that my daughter needed to document everything. Sorry to be long winded but I wanted to share my story to hopefully help you. One last thing, help your son to stand up for himself but if you don't fight for your son, no one else will. That is what I have figured out through many years with children in the public school system. Good luck and good luck to your little guy. Hopefully, this will be the last incident for a long time!!

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S.M.

answers from Washington DC on

That's awful, and I can only imagine how bad you feel. There are proabaly a lot of good ideas out there regarding the other parents or the school. Those are tough situations.

For one, I would document every incident you know of, show your list to the driver, and ask for her supervisor's number. And us it if you need to, with the tone of, "If you are having trouble dealing with this little boy, then I will need to get someone else involved."

I would also work with your son. What does he do when he is touched? You want to raise a child who sticks up for himself. I am not advocating telling him to hit back at all. But I would role play with him. Tell him to use his loudest voice to say, "Hey! Stop that! You can't hit/pinch me! Don't touch me again!" And then give him some strategies to make nice - a book to share, and game to play. But make him use his strong big guy voice to stand up for himself.

And if it comes to it, whatever happens, make sure that the other boy moves. YOur son need not give up his seat to a bully.

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J.G.

answers from Washington DC on

V.,
Here's my 2 cents:

Call (or email) the principal or whomever is in charge of the bus at the school. In my daughter's school it is the vice-principal. We had a situation last year.

I contacted the V-Principal. She had my daughter and the other student come in to tell their story apart and then together and it was worked out. No further problems with that particular child.

Turned out my daughter wasn't completely innocent in the altercation. She was in first grade.

Good luck but do something sooner rather than later.

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M.K.

answers from Washington DC on

Your precious little fellow is five, not twenty-five. It is your right, as well as your responsibility to make sure he is not hurt or bullied on the bus. Absolutely speak to the administration at the school. My guess is that they will be helpful and thankful to you for calling this to their attention. In this way, they can nip it in the bud and help the little perpetrator as much as they help your son. I think as parents, we do the children inflicting the damage a great disservice when we don't address their misbehavior. I'm also sure that the lttle guys parents would be horrified that their son is behaving in this way and would thank you for caring enough to want to address the issue. What a great learning experience for all. Sounds like you are on the road to being a great parent, which is the most important job you will ever have!

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R.H.

answers from Norfolk on

First off how do you know he's hitting him. If your son is telling you he's hitting him how do you know it's as abusive as you believe it is. The reason the driver might be reacting is because it's not as abusive as you believe. If your son knows how against hitting you are and he's participating than he's going to put blame on the other child. If it was me i would ignore it and let your son deal with it. If he's not coming home bruised than it's prob. not what you believe. If something real was happening you would def. know. Either his bus driver would be acting more directly or a child on the bus would be also saying something. To be honest i think your over reacting, children will say more than what is really happening.

The reason they don't seat belts is because of their size the force of a crash doesn't effect a person on the bus as it would in a car. They came to the understanding after major testing that it didn't effect the mortality rate of a rider. The money that it would cost was better spent on teaching children other safety measures. The smaller buses have them because they more closely resemble a car and there for need them.

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W.S.

answers from Washington DC on

With regard to seat belts - they are designed to keep you inside the car. A school bus is a huge steel cage with small windows and kids are unlikely to be ejected during a crash, hence the no seatbelts.

About me: Mom of five, three graduated, two in the service, others at home with me.

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A.V.

answers from Washington DC on

I had rotten kids on my bus growing up. I would first ask the driver again to move my child to another seat with another partner. If that doesn't happen, you may find that the next step isn't the school but the bus company. I would find out if the school manages the bus transportation or if there's a bus depot you need to call. I would tell them that you tried to resolve it with the driver, but the problem continues. Your child should not be harassed on his way to/from school.

This reminds me of when my stepson was being hassled at school and my husband tried to resolve it through the teacher. Finally he told her that since she seemed incapable of doing anything, he'd given his son permission to hit the kid back if he was hit first. The principal stepped in then and it got resolved. He had also spoken to the father of the kid who asked my husband what to do - they didn't know what to do about their son's behavior, either!

You said the boys get along okay on the playground...maybe this kid just can't sit near others and behave.

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S.S.

answers from Charlottesville on

Mom,
You need to stay out of this or you will be labeled a helicopter parent and your son a Momma's Boy. Boys get physical and they need to sort this sort of thing out among themselves. It doesn't sound like your son is actually being hurt, just bothered by this boy. So, unless the other child is leaving bruises, you need to take a deep breath and tell yourself that boys will be boys. No matter how much you want to protect your son, you can't wrap him in bubble wrap 24/7. Not all of the lessons that he learns in school will be academic and dealing with this sort of behavior on his own will be one of the biggest that he ever learns.

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P.A.

answers from Richmond on

Hi V., I wish more parents were aware of what their children experience on a school bus. I've driven a school bus for over 20 years and worked as a bus assistant for the past 4 years. Please keep telling the bus driver your concerns as well as speaking with his teacher. It could be there is something the teacher can share with you, or even share with your son, that will help. I don't know how close your son is sitting to the front of the bus but if he could be encouraged to tell the driver what is going on at the time it is happening the driver could address the other child right then and/or address it with the school as soon as they arrive.

As for seat belts, they become weapons in some children's hands and they are recepticles for all kinds of germs...coughing, sneezing, drooling, etc. There are times when it is necessary to put three small children in one seat and there is not enough space to put three sets of seat belts in each seat. Also, in case of an emeregency evacuation of the bus being necessary, what would happen to those children who could not work the seatbelt themselves? Would the driver stay with the children already outside the bus or go back in leaving them alone to get the others? Instead of putting seatbelts for every child on buses, the back of the seat in front of them was made higher so they wouldn't 'fly' over them in case of an accident and much more padding was added to cushion them if they should be thrown into the back of that seat. Children are also taught to stay seated at all times on a moving bus and to face forward keeping all body parts and objects within their seat space so there are no flying objects or off balance accidents.

Back to the question of the other student picking on your child, communicate, communicate, communicate. That bus driver has many children to keep track of and deal with and no matter how much they honestly care about each student, the sheer numbers make it impossible to keep every detail in their minds if a more extreme situation requires their attention. That doesn't mean they don't care about your son and I know I would greatly appreciate your bringing it to my attention again if you felt nothing was being done.

I wish you well and only wish your son could ride my bus. Feel free to email me at [email protected]____.com if you feel I can answer any questions for you or you just want to chat about it.

P.

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J.O.

answers from Richmond on

good luck with this V.! im sure you'll find a resolution.

both advice you got was great. I would definitely talk to your son as suggested and make sure he says STOP IT any time anyone is doing things like this. also, if he tells the driver at the time you may get a better reaction. you could also mention to his teacher you'd like him to sit with someone else as she is prbably the one who helps him to the bus

i also agress the other boy is probably trying to be "playful" in a socially inappropriate way. sounds like he has siblings who pick on him! but even if not k kids do a lot of things....even the good ones....that are baffling and immature ;) Is the other kids parent at the bus stop? i wouldn't make a big deal but if they are there and it could be firendly you could mention that he seems to have troulbe keeping hands to self on bus ride home. mom would hopefully talk to him :)

its hard to send our little boys from the nest, isn't it? i worry every time mine say someone was mean to them or so and so isn't there friend etc etc.

What does your husband think?

Good luck. I hope your son otherwise is having a good year.

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L.W.

answers from Norfolk on

I could of written this exact same thing (sounds so familiar) 2 years ago when my son was in kindergarden. It got so bad, every day he would beg to be picked up and not have to ride the bus. I spoke to the bus driver, the teacher did and then the bus driver would "forget" or whatever and he would end up back in the same seat with that kid. Eventually in first grade it escalated and my son finaly hit this kid back and ended up in the principal's office. I explained once again what had been happening and the asst. principal told the bus driver to seperate the kids. Then, when 2 days later he is back with that kid again, I pulled him off the bus and started picking him up. It just wasn't worth it anymore. Your situation sounded so familiar I just had to respond. I think you have done most of what you can do, I think the next step is the principal...someone will need to step in or it will probably escalate, I am sure. If they are getting along otherwise, it sounds like playful "bothering". I have found that you don't often get the "true story" from the little ones. Good luck!

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S.W.

answers from Norfolk on

V.,
I have been a bus driver for 5 years. Your problem is not that uncommon when it comes to the kids on the bus. You mentioned your son gets along fine with the other boy in recess and etc but just not on the bus, the hitting could be something that is carried over from the time they are together in play. Children sometimes carry over their play time from recess and classroom and from home onto the bus with the kids they are use to playing with. I have this problem often on my bus and have to remind everyone that "playing" with your hands and feet is is not acceptable behavior. IF I have a parent complaint I do try to keep an eye out for this behavior to, the first 2 weeks of school are the hardest due to everyone becoming familiar with each other and so forth. If through out the school year there is a problem I will let the parents know of the problem or vise versa and will watch them a day or 2 then I will switch the child that is causing the trouble to a different seat. Sometimes it is both children that are starting the hitting and not on the same day. Sonmetimes they will not let the driver know or the driver is unable to see this, they are sneaky little buggers when the seat is taller than they are when seated in them. I can understand your worry. If you feel the driver is not doing anything about it after you ask them to move your child then yes you should go to the principle of the school, they can also pull a video tape if the bus is equipped with one and watch it to see what the problem is.

Also about why there are not seat belts on the bus. Here is a scenerio for you to work out.
If there are 30 to 64 children on a school bus and each one was in a seat belt and for some reason that bus caught fire (and they flame pretty fast) and the driver had to unbuckle every child uncapable of doing so and one belt got a little snug and didnt come loose like it should have,the driver is helping that child and is unable to watch the other children trying to get off the bus through the emergency exits and a safe distance away; who would be watching the children that are off the bus and how many children do you think the bus driver could get unbuckled and off the bus safely before it becomes consumed by flames or it explodes? Every second counts when a bus catches fire. I feel it would be safer to not have them on the school buses due to the fact that it will take longer to get them undone by the KG and pre school kids.

This is my feeling on this and not just because I am a driver of a school bus but also I am a parent of 2 school age children that ride the bus daily.

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