Bullying on school buses

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Bullying doesn't just happen on the playground. /image: Emily Wright

Bullying doesn’t just happen on the playground. /image: Emily Wright

Bullying poses challenges for bus drivers

Article: Taylor Rattray – Contributor

In the last few months, questions have been raised regarding a 5-year-old Saskatchewan boy, Ryan Coomber, and his daily commute to school. His father, Robert Coomber, claims some students who ride the same school bus as Ryan have been bullying him, and that this may be because Ryan has a prosthetic leg.

Ryan lost his leg in a lawnmower accident in 2008, which shattered his pelvis and required his left leg to be amputated. In the most recent incident, Robert says another student on the bus gave his son a black eye. Robert approached the school division, but was told instead that his son and daughter would need to be driven to school to avoid the bullying on the bus.

There has been an anti-bullying strategy in Saskatchewan for several years, and student safety in the school environment is the most important goal. According to Jean Reder, who has been driving school bus since 1987 with the Southeast Cornerstone School Division and the Prairie Valley School Division, driving buses is harder than it ever used to be. She says, “as bus drivers, our job is to get the kids to school safely. Our eyes are supposed to be in front of the bus instead of behind, but dealing with bullying, you gotta keep in contact with the parents, and you gotta keep in contact with the principal and you try to work together to get it under control. It’s really difficult for bus drivers.”

image: Emily Wright

image: Emily Wright

Whether or not these procedures were followed is unsure, but students who ride this same school bus have also spoken up. Many say the incident has been blown out of proportion and even continue to say that Ryan is disruptive on the bus. They claim the incident in which Ryan was given a black eye was a misinterpretation of a student accidentally elbowing Ryan in the face. Yet, Coomber stands by his former allegations.

When asked if bullying has changed since she began driving school buses, Reder replied, “It has changed a lot. When I first started, bullying wasn’t the same [as] it is now. Now everything seems to be classified as bullying. It affects the whole bus. Before, when I first started driving, if you had problems, you went to the parents and the next day everything was fine. Nowadays, the parents are all working and…they just figure their own child is right. So to me, there is more one-sidedness.”

The school division includes a process parents are encouraged to follow when they have concerns regarding bullying. With respect to bullying on the bus, the Prairie South School Division website states, “The division strives to provide safe, efficient and on-time transportation for students in both the rural and urban areas.”

This case, with regard to Saskatchewan Government Anti-Bullying policies, is being investigated further.

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