Columbia County, GA -
School buses in Columbia County will begin transporting more than 14,000 students twice a day starting next week. As directors complete routes, they are also working on ways to prevent bullying on the bus.
A majority of the buses have no cameras or monitors on board. In most cases, there is no camera footage to look back on, but the school will accept student phone video in investigations. When a bullying incident happens, the bus driver must turn in a form to the principal for disciplinary action to be taken.
As the school buses begin to roll out next week in Columbia County, drivers are making last minute preparations. One important item all bus drivers must check off their list before the year starts is training on how to handle bullying.
School Transportation Director Dewayne Porter said all drivers must watch a tutorial before school starts and participate in meetings once a month starting at the beginning of the year.
"We try to give some real world examples based on the calls and concerns that I have received in my office each day and use that as a training tool to train new drivers and veteran drivers on how to react and responds," said Porter.
With more than 200 buses in the county, only one bus has cameras, so when it comes down to bullying, much of the responsibility falls on the bus driver.
"Our drivers are trained to turn that into the school on a disciplinary form and allow the school to investigate it, provided the driver does recognize it and knows that it's happening," said Porter.
Columbia County adopted the state's policies on bullying back in 2011, but the principal remains the key component for action when they receive these forms.
"If we know it, we may move the child that's being accused of bullying to the front seat for a period of time, the principal may choose to do something different in conjunction with that," said Porter.
The transportation department has already has requirements, such as placing girls and boys on opposite sides and placing students from youngest grade level in the front to oldest in the back.
Porter said the county hasn't had any major problems in past years and he's hoping to keep it the same this year.
Columbia County does not have any plans to buy additional cameras for buses right now. Each camera system costs around $1,500 and without any substantial reason to get them, Porter said this money can be better used in the classroom.