Hannibal district using school bus 'coaches' to prevent trouble

Sunday, December 6, 2009

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Making children behave is hard enough in the classroom. On a school bus, it can be an even bigger challenge.

One Missouri school district has come up with a solution that is limiting disciplinary problems on the bus.

Since 2003, Hannibal public schools have used two bus "coaches" who ride along, keep students in line and try to teach them good behavior.

School district officials cite continuing improvement in bus behavior. The Hannibal Courier-Post reports that last year, 154 students were written up for bad behavior from the start of the school year through Oct. 31. This year, the number was down to 110. The number of repeat offenders has been cut nearly in half.

The current bus coaches are Ashley Fugate and Mahala Jurado. They say they have to be mothers, big sisters, listeners, disciplinarians and psychologists.

"You keep an eye on everybody," Fugate said. "You're scanning each individual kid. You're looking everywhere for what might happen. Their switch won't get flipped unless someone does it."

The coaches rotate between buses, but generally ride with students who have had problems.

"You have to expect different things," Fugate said. "If there are rules, they're going to be broken. So, you have to make sure they're followed."

The bus coaches take many of the burdens off of drivers, who say they love the program.

"It makes a world of difference on my bus," said David Myers, a driver for almost four years. "If you can stop a clique, it doesn't go too far. If you wait too long, you've got problems."

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