West York adds bus monitors to address bullying

West York Area Middle School

West York Area elementary school buses that have been the topic of reported bullying problems in the district now have extra staff riders to act as mentors and monitors.

The district kicked off the "Bulldog Bus Buddies" pilot program Feb. 4 "in an effort to promote better behavior among students and calm travel experience," according to a Sunday, Feb. 10, news release.

Staff members began riding seven elementary buses that had recently seen disciplinary issues to help defuse situations between students that might normally escalate without direct supervision, the release said.

Parents have reported ongoing bullying on the buses, and a particular bus incident sparked parent action at a Jan. 28 parent meeting.

Rhonda Lucky, whose 10-year-old son Ted Grove was punched, slapped and held in a chokehold on a Trimmer Elementary School bus in December, contacted an attorney about continuing issues she said were not being properly addressed by the district.

Rhonda Lucky greets fellow parents as they arrive for a public meeting to voice concerns about reported bullying in West York School District, Monday, January 28, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Rebecca Lyttle, who has an office with LVH Legal in Lancaster County, heard from at least 18 parents about similar issues and is considering a class action lawsuit against the district.

District officials said they were aware of problems on the buses — and were in the process of updating policies — before Lucky came forward. A Jan. 30 letter from the district announced a more stringent policy with required reporting and specific consequences for repeat behavioral offenses.

Parents have said that drivers had not been responding to all student complaints, and the district had previously refused to take on volunteers as bus aides.

More:Parents to hold meeting on West York district bullying concerns

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One former bus driver claimed district officials did not provide enough assistance when drivers reached out for help.

Loretta Stump talks about her experiences as a bus driver for West York School District during a public meeting for parents to voice concerns about reported bullying in West York School District, Monday, January 28, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

The district is looking into discipline training for drivers, reducing bus time and closing the loop of communication so that drivers are aware of how reported incidents are resolved and can learn how to reduce them in the future.

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The Feb. 10 district news release said that adding more adults to monitor the bus will help bus operator Reliance Student Transportation drivers focus more attention on meeting time schedules.

For more information about the pilot initiative, contact the district's Transportation Department at transportation@wyasd.k12.pa.us or 717-792-4046.