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Transforming School Bus Safety: Innovative Solutions to Combat Disruptive Student Behavior with Technology

Disruptive student behavior poses significant challenges to school bus safety and student well-being. In this blog, we delve into the pervasive impact of negative behavior on school buses and explore actionable strategies to address these issues effectively. By leveraging innovative technology solutions, we aim to not only mitigate disruptive behavior but also enhance safety protocols, reduce driver turnover rates, and cultivate a more conducive environment for student learning and development. Through a comprehensive analysis of best practices and real-world case studies, this paper offers valuable insights and practical recommendations to empower school transportation directors and administrators in fostering safer and more efficient student transportation systems.


An overview of the impact of negative student behavior on a school bus

When you think of disruptive student behavior on a school bus what comes to mind? Most often people have images of kids teasing each other or maybe bullying. These are situations often experienced by school bus riders and portrayed in movies. While this may be disruptive it may not seem like a big deal. However, disruptive student behavior has been shown to endanger students physical and mental health while also interfering with driver concentration. While riding on a school bus to and from school is safer than driving in a car, most bus crashes occur when the driver is distracted, and the major distraction is loud and disruptive student behavior. A search of the internet will show multiple school bus crashes that were linked to the student distracting the school bus driver. In addition to increasing the risk of a school bus crash, such behavior has also contributed to increased bus driver turnover. Students themselves bear the brunt of this bad student behavior. Children impacted by bullying perform worse in school and have more social issues. The situation is only getting worse as reports indicate that student behavior issues have increased since the isolation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Association for Pupil Transportation conducted a survey of their membership and asked the question, “Is bullying a serious problem on your school buses?” Twenty percent of the respondents said they strongly agreed, while another 50 percent agreed. There is no doubt that to keep students safe during school bus transportation disruptive student behavior must be addressed. The good news is that there are standard practices that seem to have an impact on disruptive student behavior and new school bus technologies can make these even more effective.

Defining Bad Student Behavior and Steps to Address It

1. Defining Bad Student Behavior

To effectively address negative student behavior on school buses, it’s crucial to define what constitutes such behavior. Bad student behavior encompasses a range of actions, including fighting, bullying, profanity, substance abuse, sexual harassment, sexual behavior, and refusal to follow safety guidelines. A common scenario that can occur is when students are being disruptive. This causes the bus driver to spend time looking in the interior mirror to understand what is going on behind them and thinking about how to react. This loss of focus can result in a crash when something unexpected happens on the road ahead. In addition to increasing the risk of a crash, bullying can have well-documented negative effects on the student who is the target of the bullying.  

2. Recommended Best Practices for Student Behavior

Implementing best practices for student behavior is essential for creating a safe and conducive environment on school buses. These practices include establishing clear rules and expectations, promoting positive reinforcement, fostering a culture of respect and inclusion, and providing training for drivers and students on conflict resolution and bystander intervention.

The top recommendations for improving student behavior from Jolene Hawkins, former President of the Texas Association of Pupil Transportation, and others include:

Get to know the kids – Use seating charts to know who and where they are. 

Greet them by name – Learning their names and using them during pick-up and drop off lets them know you can and are watching. 

Set expectations – Simple rules are easy to enforce. 

Communicate effectively – Whatever the rules are, be fair and consistent among students. 

Use bus monitors to ride along on the bus – They have the time to resolve issues so the driver can focus on the road. 

Reward positive behavior – Don’t rely on negative communication alone. 

If issues occur the driver should:

• Not get distracted – Pull over to resolve the issue. 

• Get the support of the school – Report the issue to the school to allow the principals to work with the parents.

The National Institute of Justice conducted a survey of more than 2,500 school districts to see which policies and actions most schools are taking. Table 1 below shows the results of this survey. You can see that the actions taken by most schools closely match the recommendations above.

Table 1: Actions to Address Student Behavior Issues on the School Bus 
Actions to Address Student Behavior% Used
Students who misbehave are issued a disciplinary referral (either verbal or written) 99 
Bus drivers are encouraged to get to know the students who ride their bus to help create a respectful environment where there are clear expectations for student behavior 98 
Bus drivers and school officials are encouraged to build relationships with one another so that drivers feel comfortable reporting misconduct and voicing their opinions about how to make the bus a safer place 97 
If bus drivers observe misbehavior, they have the option to pull over 97 
Students are encouraged to get to know their drivers so that they will feel comfortable reporting issues they are having on the bus 93 
Students are assigned to seats 89 
Drivers participate in a training program to teach ways to prevent, manage, or address misconduct on the bus.  78 
Older students are encouraged through a formal or informal system to mentor and look out for younger students  76 
Students are rewarded for good behavior on the bus  72 
The principal, teachers, or school resource officers board the bus regularly to remind students of bus rules and the importance of positive behavior 72 
Bus drivers play music, show films, or provide other forms of entertainment to engage or distract children while they ride the bus  61 
Parents, students, or both sign a code of conduct or written agreement (i.e., behavior contracts) that communicates rules of the bus and consequences for violating them 59 
Buses are equipped with surveillance cameras 80 Buses are equipped with safety belts 56 
A bus-specific website or dedicated telephone number is available where students or parents can report misbehavior that happens on the bus 55 
Adult bus attendants/monitors ride the bus with students to and from school 50 
Students participate in a training program (including the use of instructional videos) to teach ways to prevent, manage, or address bullying or other types of misbehavior on the bus (e.g., The Peaceful School Bus). This also includes training programs that have a section or component that is specific to the bus. 25 
All students or students who misbehave on the bus are required to watch films that communicate the importance of positive behavior on the bus or reasons misbehavior on the bus is inappropriate (e.g., Tears on the Highway)   

Schools can make great strides in improving student behavior on the bus in implementing these. However, these actions can be enhanced with the addition of the right technology on a school bus. 

Technology offers innovative solutions to support best practices 

In addressing disruptive behavior on school buses, innovative technology solutions offer a promising avenue for enhancing safety protocols and mitigating incidents in real time. The following technologies are recommended for implementation:

Ridership Technology  

Utilizing advanced ridership technology enables schools to monitor student ridership data in real time. When students board or exit the bus, their names and photos are automatically displayed, providing drivers with instant visual identification of passengers. This not only streamlines the boarding process but also enables drivers to quickly address behavioral issues by identifying the responsible students. 

Live Video Surveillance Cameras  

Equipping school buses with live video surveillance cameras enhances monitoring capabilities and enables proactive intervention in behavioral incidents. These cameras provide live video feeds to transportation department officials, allowing them to observe and respond to disruptive behavior in the moment. Moreover, the presence of cameras acts as a deterrent to misconduct and facilitates accurate documentation of incidents for subsequent review and resolution.

Without live video cameras, the cameras only document what has happened and don’t provide the school with the opportunity to engage in supporting the driver in resolving the issue.  These cameras typically require the school to physically visit the school bus to remove the hard drive with the video, return to the office and then scroll through the video to find the incident.  This process delays getting information needed to resolve the problem and provide the school with an accurate account of what happened. It also costs time and money as a member of the staff must visit the bus. Schools have reported that it can take 2-3 hours to get 15 minutes of video with these older technology cameras. 

Incident Reporting Systems  

Implementing incident reporting systems enables drivers to promptly report disruptive behavior via dedicated onboard devices. With the push of a button, drivers can alert transportation department officials to behavioral incidents, bookmark the incident on the video and trigger an immediate response protocol. Incident reports are logged in a centralized database, facilitating comprehensive tracking and analysis of behavioral trends for targeted interventions. 

Parent Communication Platforms  

Leveraging technology to facilitate communication between schools, transportation departments, and parents is crucial for addressing behavioral incidents effectively. Integrated parent communication platforms allow transportation officials to notify parents of behavioral incidents in real time, providing them with timely information and fostering collaborative efforts to address behavioral challenges.

Through the strategic implementation of these technology solutions, schools can strengthen their capabilities in addressing disruptive behavior on school buses, promoting a safer and more conducive environment for student transportation. One of the major advantages of technology is speed. It is not just speed of conflict resolution, but speed of learning for bus drivers. Table 2 below includes a quick comparison of some of the top actions with and without the use of school bus technology. 

Table 2: Actions with and without technology 
Action/Policy No Technology With Technology 
Get to know the kids Drivers are given a list of the students on the bus and must ask their name to connect a name with their face. With ridership technology when a student logs on to the bus their name and picture will come up. 
Greet them by name Drivers must learn their name over time.  This is extremely challenging for new and substitute drivers With ridership the name and photo are presented every time a student enters or leaves the bus.  This is ideal for substitute and new drivers. 
Bus Attendants/Monitors ride the bus This requires a second person to ride the bus to manage the students and resolve behavior issues during the route. With live video or live cameras, the transportation department can actively respond to a driver’s request for help to look, hear, and speak into the bus to resolve behavior issues. 
Disciplinary referral When a student misbehaves, the driver is encouraged to write-up the student, which is then escalated to the administration to confront the parents of the child. With live video or live cameras, the Transportant department can resolve the issue on the bus and then inform the parents of the issue prior to the student arriving home.  This allows them to engage the parents in partners in improving the student’s behavior. 
Students are assigned a seat Drivers will create their own seating chart.  When discipline is required, the administration will request a copy and make suggestions. With a system with seating charts the school administration can see the seating chart for the bus, make changes and the driver and student will see the changes. 
Students are rewarded for good behavior on the bus This requires the individual driver to observe and recognize students consistently. With live video or live cameras, the school can actively monitor buses and recognize buses that are behaving correctly providing greater consistency. 

Case Study: Liberty Public Schools nearly eliminate student behavior issues by leveraging technology

Jeff Baird, Transportation Director at Liberty Public Schools shared with us how he uses Transportant’s school bus technology system to almost eliminate student behavior issues completely.  In speaking with Jeff, he stated that student behavior issues were common prior to him developing the following practices. Once he started these practices, student behavior improved significantly. He states that the main advantage of using a system like Transportant is speed. With the ability to look, hear and speak into a bus, he can support his drivers on the route in real time. This changed his approach from being reactive once a driver arrived at the school to being proactive. In addition to other advantages listed in Table 2, Jeff developed two very powerful policies: the 7-minute rule and driver talks.   

The 7-Minute Rule 

The 7-Minute Rule is for situations where you have an incident that requires an immediate response.  The process aims to engage parents as partners to address student behavior issues on the school bus. Prior to getting the Transportant technology on their buses, drivers would need to write up a complaint about a student on the bus. This would then be escalated to the school administration, who would then call the parents. By this time students often had a chance to speak with their parents and develop their own narrative of what had occurred, which often resulted in a confrontation between the school and parents defending their students. Jeff’s goal was to change that paradigm.

With the Transportant system, drivers have access to an incident button on every bus. If there is an issue, such as disruptive student behavior, the driver pushes the button. Jeff then challenged his team to resolve the issue and contact the parents within 7 minutes of being informed of the incident.   

The first thing the team member does is click on the incident message. This takes them to a live view of the bus where they can see and hear what is going on in real time and scroll back in recent history to see what the issue is or was. The system has every student’s name, photos, and a seating chart available for the team members to review.  Once they have identified the offending student, they can talk into the bus to address the student directly while the bus driver continues to focus on driving the bus. Once the incident is resolved, the team member calls or texts the parents. They let them know about what just happened and that it was captured on video. They ask the parents for their support in addressing the issue with the student. The parents are also informed that no formal complaint will be made to the student’s record if the issue isn’t repeated. When the student arrives home, the parents can discuss the issue with them since they are fully informed. This policy or process alone has had a significant impact on student behavior on the Liberty buses.   

See and Say Driver Talks 

The See and Say Driver Talks are for incidents that don’t demand an immediate response. It allows you to take your time and build relationships and accountability with the students. In these cases the incident button to notify the school is pressed. This informs the school and bookmarks the video at the point of the incident.  There may also be cases where the schools see a student behavior incident while monitoring the live video. This allows them to see student behavior issues that the driver may not be aware of.  In both cases the driver goes to the office to review the video. Screenshots of the incident are provided to the driver. Drivers also receive coaching in how to speak with the student. Then the next day as the student boards the bus the driver has a one-on-one discussion about the behavior and assertively presents an opportunity to change the behavior to the student(s). These discussions have helped in building a bond between the drivers and the students. It also puts the students on notice that they are being observed even if the driver is focused on driving the bus. 


With these tools, procedures, and policies Liberty School District has nearly eliminated disruptive student behavior on their school buses. 


Disruptive student behavior poses a significant challenge to school bus safety and student well-being, impacting not only the learning environment but also the physical and mental health of students and drivers. However, by adopting a proactive approach and leveraging innovative technology solutions, schools can effectively address these challenges and enhance the overall safety and efficiency of student transportation systems.

Through the implementation of best practices, including clear rules and expectations, positive reinforcement, and driver training, schools can create a culture of respect and inclusion on school buses. These practices, as evidenced by industry surveys and recommendations, serve as foundational pillars in promoting positive student behavior and reducing incidents of misconduct.

Furthermore, technology plays a crucial role in augmenting these best practices, offering live video monitoring, incident reporting, and communication capabilities. Solutions such as ridership technology, live video surveillance cameras, incident reporting systems, and parent communication tools empower transportation departments to identify and address behavioral incidents promptly, fostering a safer and more conducive environment for student transportation.

Case studies, such as the success story shared by Liberty Public Schools, highlight the transformative impact of technology-enabled procedures and policies in virtually eliminating disruptive student behavior on school buses. By implementing innovative practices such as the “7-Minute Rule” and driver talks, schools can proactively engage parents, empower drivers, and promote positive student behavior through personalized interventions and support.

In conclusion, addressing disruptive student behavior on school buses requires a multifaceted approach that combines best practices with innovative technology solutions. By fostering collaboration between transportation departments, schools, parents, and students, schools can create safer, more inclusive environments that prioritize student well-being and enhance the overall quality of education.

Through ongoing evaluation, adaptation, and investment in technology-driven initiatives, schools can continue to improve student transportation safety and ensure that every student can travel to and from school in a secure and supportive environment.

Note from the Author 

As a leader of a school bus technology company and a parent the more I learned about how disruptive student behavior seems to be at the center of many of the biggest issues in school bus transportation the more I was motivated to study the work that has been done in the area. As you will see from the blog this is not a new problem. I remember issues with bullying and disruptive behavior when I rode a school bus myself. What I have found is that there is a growing consensus on the ways to mitigate and reduce student behavior issues on the bus. The gap and opportunity I saw was that there was little information on how school bus technology can strengthen the schools’ efforts to improve behavior on the bus. I thank our customers for finding creative ways to use the tools that today’s school bus technology can provide. I hope you find it helpful and informative. 

About the Author

Martin Staples is the CEO of Transportant. Transportant provides technology for school buses that allow schools and transportation companies to go from being reactive to proactive in resolving issues on a school bus in real time. Before joining Transportant, Martin was a Scientist, a Naval Aviator and had a successful 25+ year career at Emerson Electric spanning 8 different global businesses. Martin joined Transportant because he was excited to join a company with cutting-edge technology whose mission is to improve the safety of both students and drivers.


1. Trotter A. For safety and sanity’s sake, help bus drivers keep peace on the ride to school. Am Sch Board J. 1987;174:46–8. 






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