Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports on the School Bus

February 21, 2012
Open book in a classroom setting

Transportation drivers are responsible for very precious cargo. Their primary focus is to safely transport children from home to school or to school activities and back again. Drivers receive extensive training to learn the necessary skills to operate the vehicles and navigate traffic, but rarely receive information or training on how to manage disruptive behaviors on the vehicle.


It’s Friday afternoon. The middle-school students are in high spirits because it’s the start of a long holiday weekend. As the driver prepares to depart, he says, “I can’t move this bus until all passengers are seated. Could you all sit down, please?”

One student in particular ignores the driver and continues to stand and talk to his friends. The driver, while still seated, repeats the request in a louder voice, becoming impatient. It’s his long weekend too.

The student continues to ignore the driver, who now leaves his seat and approaches the student. The driver tells the student, “If you don’t sit down now, you’ll walk home on your own and be off this bus the rest of the year!”

Two things can happen from here. The student can agree and sit down, or, more likely, a power struggle will ensue.

For many of us, this scenario is all too familiar.

Many of us have implemented School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SW-PBIS) in our buildings, but how many of us have considered extending these strategies to the school bus?

A recent article in Campus Safety Magazine, “Establishing Positive Behavior on the Bus,” profiles a middle school in Maryland that has had success doing exactly that. By extending SW-PBIS training to drivers, the school empowers drivers to address challenging behavior proactively.

Additionally, another Campus Safety Magazine article, “Strategies for Managing Discipline Problems on the School Bus,” outlines methods that drivers can use to increase school-bus safety—methods such as using positive reinforcement, an approach that proves effective with students of all ages.

We invite you to share your successes and challenges for equipping your transportation staff with the skills they need to support positive behaviors on their vehicles.

Read more about the relationship between PBIS and Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training on our Knowledge Base page.

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