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JCPS changes referral process to help bus drivers with behavior issues

Many young people in jeans and street fashions walk through a crowded parking lot. School buses are in the background.
Jess Clark
High school and middle school students change buses at the Detrick and Nichols Bus Compound on Monday, Aug 21.

Jefferson County Public Schools is moving more support staff to bus compounds to help handle student discipline.

The change comes after nearly 150 bus drivers participated in “sickouts” earlier this month over logistical challenges and difficult student behavior.

Starting Wednesday, the district will move a staff member from the Climate and Culture Department to each JCPS bus compound, according to district spokesperson Carolyn Callahan.

The new staff member at each compound will be an assistant director of pupil personnel or a social worker. That employee will be charged with entering referrals into the district’s data management system, known as Infinite Campus, and act as a liaison between drivers and schools over behavioral issues.

One of drivers’ main complaints is that schools are not creating appropriate consequences for disruptive or dangerous behavior on buses.

“One of the big things we were hearing from bus drivers was ‘I write these referrals, and then I never know if something, if anything, comes of it, if any action is taken,’” Callahan said.

Currently, bus compound coordinators are in charge of taking the handwritten referrals from drivers and entering them into Infinite Campus so they can be resolved by the school. But Callahan said coordinators have to find time to enter referrals amidst all their other duties.

“So this is really taking a lot off of the compound coordinators as well,” she said.

Callahan said the district was working on a solution “well before” the sickouts. Originally, she said the district’s plan to help involved digitizing drivers’ referral process.

“But what we found out in talking with bus drivers as we were starting the process of digitizing was that it actually wasn’t easier because there became more steps,” she said.

Callahan said the new staff will collect the handwritten referrals from drivers at the end of each day’s morning route. School staff are supposed to assign a consequence or resolution within two school days.

“We will be following up to make sure that that happens, and if we notice that some referrals are not being acted upon then the assistant superintendent will get in touch with school leaders to make sure that they are being looked at,” she said.

Callahan said the staff newly assigned to the compounds will be there indefinitely.

John Stovall, the president of the union that represents JCPS bus drivers, Teamsters Local 783, called the move a “step in the right direction.”

“It lets drivers know that they’re taking some of that stuff seriously,” Stovall said.

Drivers also remain concerned about long routes and overcrowding, he said. But those issues are not likely to get resolved until next school year, when JCPS is looking to cut transportation services for some students in order to make do with a driver shortage.

Stovall said that enforcing student discipline could make the crowding and longer routes “more tolerable.”

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

This story has been updated.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.

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