Bus discipline issues still prevalent at CMSD


Cherie Labat

Cherie Labat



Mary Pollitz



When it comes to student discipline at Columbus Municipal School District, the buses seem to be the biggest problem areas, district officials say. 


So far this year, there have been 108 reported instances of students misbehaving on buses, according to CMSD's monthly disciplinary report released during Tuesday morning's regular board of trustees meeting. That's more than twice the number reports of misbehavior in other areas, including disruptive behaviors (50) and tardies (39). 


Superintendent Cherie Labat said student behavioral issues on bus routes are not unique to CMSD, but had been an issue in districts she served previously. She added if the district can find a solution, student disciplinary referrals would largely decrease throughout the district. 


"Our overall discipline has decreased, but our bus discipline is the area of concern that's kind of taking our data out of the norm," Labat said. "We know that if we focus on it, we will definitely see a decrease from last year to this year with the number of disciplinary referrals." 


The district has been monitoring bus referral issues and begun troubleshooting solutions, she said. For example, Sale Elementary School and Columbus Middle School principals both started using positive reinforcement for bus behavior by recognizing well-behaved students and a "bus of the week." Labat said she believes more schools will implement similar strategies. 


With the mass amount of bus infractions, Labat said the district may also have to reconsider which discipline issues to report.  


"We are reporting every single infraction," Labat said. "Even when a child is warned, it's picked up as an infraction. If you're not in your seat, that's an infraction. The way we are reporting, that may be a systematic issue that we may need to resolve within the form." 


The board also heard a presentation from representatives of Ecco Ride, a contracted transportation company with CMSD that trains and provides bus drivers. Board President Jason Spears said the presentation was prompted by student discipline issues on buses last year. 


"It's something that we've taken notice to throughout last school year," he said. "We just felt like now is the time to work with contractors and see what ways we can look to resolve any issues that may exist." 


The presentation touched primarily on the training Ecco Ride provides its drivers, including how to handle fighting on buses, as well as protocol on everything from wrecks to extreme weather conditions.  


Labat said it was important to understand what Ecco Ride is doing to promote student safety and good behavior so the district can troubleshoot a solution. She added the principals of each school have started to investigate the "problem areas" including which buses and routes have the highest infractions.  


"If you don't have order and procedures, there tends to be more discipline referrals," Labat said. "I just think, maybe that's something (Ecco Ride) can provide if there's high infractions on specific buses, they may need additional training. It may not be the kids, it may be the structure." 


Moving forward, Labat said the district will monitor the effectiveness of positive reinforcement for students on the bus. She added even if referrals decrease over time, she will look at the district's finances to consider adding bus monitors through Ecco Ride.  


"Sometimes the elements change, you still may need a monitor," Labat said. "I think we are going to need both to make sure our buses are safe for our children."




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