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Professional Opinion

Transportation drives the multitiered support bus for K12

How to successfully include drivers in behavioral intervention systems
Tina H. Weaver is the director of administration for Madison County Public Schools in Virginia.
Tina H. Weaver is the director of administration for Madison County Public Schools in Virginia.

Leaders at Madison County Public Schools spent two years creating and improving tiered student support systems. For this work, we earned the Virginia Department of Education’s Distinction in Implementation of Behavioral Interventions in 2017.

We developed multilevel approaches to improve student academic performance, behavior and attendance. Teachers worked diligently to develop effective classroom systems by monitoring academic and behavior data.

Teachers honed their professional skills through systems coaching. Student surveys provided data to improve the school experience from their perspective. Administrators reviewing data discovered fewer disciplinary referrals in classrooms but more on buses.

So what was missing from the process? We neglected to include our transportation personnel.

Changing culture

Acknowledging the importance of school bus drivers and inviting them to the multitiered systems of support (MTSS) discussion changed our district’s culture. Each day, Madison transports 1,000 students over rural roads. School bus drivers have the first and last interactions with students daily.

I tasked the MTSS district team with bringing transportation drivers into the discussion. In reviewing data, we noticed wide differences in values and practices between bus drivers and school administrators. In essence, drivers complain that principals do not adequately punish bus misbehavior. For their part, principals say that drivers refer inconsequential acts for office referrals.

Bus drivers applied to join the newly formed MTSS Bus Committee. This process ensured true interest in problem-solving and a diverse group of five bus drivers and one car driver.

The committee’s first task was to review current bus rules—basically a long list of don’ts. Drivers wanted to add a list of positive behaviors. Through consensus and a convergence of various bus practices, BUS Rider Expectations emerged (Be responsible, Use your manners and Safety first).

Here are five considerations for successfully incorporating transportation employees into MTSS.

  1. Have a diverse team. Assemble a solid team whose members have different approaches to student bus behavior. Our committee included drivers who allowed unrestricted food and drink and those who did not. This team presented final expectations to all drivers.
  2. Educate. Make drivers familiar with the MTSS approach. Explain how it applies to behavior, academics and attendance. Determine what you want to improve by using a tiered matrix.
  3. Have a strict agenda. Adhere to a strict agenda with definite times and specific topics, and include a note taker and a timekeeper. Drivers completed the work through discussions. Our administrators served as facilitators only.
  4. Have patience. This is a process. Our committee met five times to develop the matrix.
  5. Use the bus as a classroom. Teachers worked with drivers to develop lessons on bus expectations. During the school day, students practiced on the bus with drivers and teachers.

Drivers agreed that the first incident constitutes a warning, while a second incident results in parent contact. A third incident requires an administrator to lead a discussion with the student and the driver. After a fourth incident, all prior interventions are repeated and a formal referral is made.

This process made our drivers more aware of students’ behavioral learning processes. Our drivers have become behavioral intervention decision-makers along with other MTSS professionals.

Our preliminary data show a tremendous decrease in bus referrals. We will continue to review our data and practices with those folks who first greet our students every morning.


Tina H. Weaver is the director of administration for Madison County Public Schools.