School Bus Driver Training: Handling Disputes With Parents
published on November 13, 2019 by Sonia Mastros
Recently, social media was buzzing when a video went viral of a Denver parent forcing her way onto a stopped school bus, and getting into a physical altercation with the bus staff that ultimately required police to break up. This is definitely a worst-case scenario when it comes to problematic parent interactions, but it does illustrate the need for school bus driver training to cover disputes with parents.
Could training have prevented the Denver situation from going south? Possibly not - although it's hard to tell, given how little information has been made public about what prompted the altercation. Either way, this is an excellent opportunity to discuss how school bus driver training, and other changes to the bus system, can help defuse potentially negative disputes with parents.
How Your District Can Avoid More Harmful Disputes With Parents
1. Include Conflict De-Escalation in School Bus Driver Training
Currently, no state in the union requires de-escalation or crisis management training for bus drivers - but perhaps they should. A driver who knows de-escalation techniques is going to be better prepared to address misbehavior on the bus as well as being better at handling angry parents in a diplomatic fashion.
These techniques include:
- Not raising one's voice
- Avoiding threats
- Ignoring or re-directing from deliberately provocative questions
- Awareness of body language, and avoiding threatening postures
- Attempting to show empathy and understanding of the other's position
- Acknowledgment of the other's feelings
- Careful decisions on when\how to draw lines in the sand
2. Better Outreach to Parents
Often, parental disputes can arise when parents do not fully understand the laws and regulations a bus driver may be bound by. In that example of the parent in Denver, one crucial aspect is that - reportedly - the driver was prevented by regulation from letting any non-school personnel onto the bus, or from allowing students to exit when not at a bus stop. The parent did not understand, or refused to respect, this position and escalated it into a physical confrontation.
More parental outreach can help make these rules and regulations clear to parents.
3. Install Cameras
Having video cameras onboard school buses can be a major help in shutting down conflicts between drivers, parents, or students. They can completely eliminate any he said/she said situations by providing facts, rather than subjective opinions.
4. Let Drivers Know You Have Their Back
Drivers are working under multiple pressures when they come into conflict with parents, and those pressures include fear for their job. If your drivers know that the district will support them in reasonable situations, they will be less likely to over-react or get defensive.
Does your school bus driver training encompass parental disputes? If so, let people know about your training techniques in the comments below!