Stevenson-Carson celebrates 62% drop in bus referrals after PBIS implementation

Disrespectful, disruptive behavior, inappropriate language, aggression, bullying, defiance, changing seats…these are common safety and behavioral issues school bus drivers face when transporting students to and from school. But bus drivers in Stevenson-Carson School District have seen these incidents drop by nearly 62% in the two years since the district expanded Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) beyond the classroom and onto the school bus.

SCSD Transportation Director Sandra Karppinen was the driving force behind the expansion of PBIS to district transportation. “Having the bus drivers learn the same language and communication skills that the teachers and administrators use when communicating with the students has become a real asset,” she says.

The continuity even extends to the referral slips that the bus drivers write. Karppinen explains, “Making the bus referrals look and read the same as the referrals in school makes it easier for students and parents to understand that behavior expectations are the same on the bus as in school.”

Stevenson-Carson bus drivers enjoy fewer disruptions on their bus routes since the implementation of PBIS.

The drivers underwent introductory training in December of 2014 with a full PBIS training in March of the same school year. They continue to have refresher PBIS training yearly. Part of PBIS implementation is being able to target and individualize behavior problems using data. According to Karppinen, the transportation department used PBIS and the individualized data points to “radically change the culture climate” on their buses.

Part of that culture is a reward system with the help of the schools called a S.O.A.R. card. Karppinen explains that S.O.A.R is an acronym for Safe Orderly and Respectful and when a student acts safe, orderly or respectful the bus driver writes their name on the card and gives it to the student. The students turn them in to the office at their school, and each school has a different reward system in place.

“Expanding PBIS to our transportation would not have been possible without cooperation between our director of transportation, bus drivers and staff at the schools,” says SCSD Superintendent Karen Douglass. “It has been a true team effort and we continue to work together with the expectation of seeing a further decline in incidents and an increase in enjoyable bus rides!”

During School Bus Safety Week (October 16th­–20th), the transportation department is handing out the prizes and promoting the theme “a safe ride begins with me.”