Progressive discipline: out of sync with busing?

Reading the SBF article carefully may suggest an attack on the decent treatment of school bus drivers and the civil kids riding the buses.

By James Kraemer

2safeschools Online Photo Library

An article in School Bus Fleet magazine’s June 2012 issue, Progressive discipline: out of sync with busing,’ presents that progressive discipline in pupil transportation environments for anything other than general personnel issues — such as tardiness, absenteeism or drivers room behavior — can be bad for kids.

The author Michael P. Dallessandro of what appears a well-intended article does not adequately recognize that hostile workplaces without a progressive discipline policy could be devastating for civil school bus drivers.

He question’s, “Does a driver have to drag three separate kids with the bus door before he or she can be fired because the employer is strictly bound by progressive discipline procedures due to labor contracts or civil service laws?”

He continues. “How many kindergarten students have to be left at a street corner or home where there is no parent or guardian present to receive them before News Channel 8 starts to ask questions about your operation that you can only answer to as a “personnel matter” due to progressive discipline?”

And this. “And lastly, most nationally recognized driver trainers and safe-driving organizations will clearly tell you that a driver who rips off a mirror in January and then backs into a pole a year later is far more likely to have a serious accident in the future than a driver who has a clean record.”

A member on my Facebook page recently commented, "I have been directed to use the progressive discipline on my bus for the last 2 years. I have followed the directives to the letter. I can now say, with authority, it does not work. I used it with [mainstream] students Pre-K thru 12. I used it with [Spec-Ed] children. It is cumbersome and unwieldy. Bus discipline needs to be firm and immediate."

First, there is nothing in union contract’s that management has not agreed to follow.

Next, consider the excellent representation many of the same employers, school board members, administrators (another), school principals, and transportation directors, and even school bus manufacturers, and suppliers receive from membership in their state and national associations.

Yes, these public school occupations all have national associations that represent them, some provide incredible services to their members. Most have great lawyers to defend their members when needed. In many cases, the school district pays for their membership.

Even parents have a union.

And lastly, the examples Dallessandro provided are of the more serious issues and may not apply in a union contract unless management agreed to it.

What seems strange is no where is it mentioned how unhealthy the workplace can be when management bullies their bus drivers, allows their bus drivers to be bullied, scapegoats their drivers, fail to help keep kids safe and the bus driver's workplace safe behind the wheel by removing from the bus unruly children  that refuse to follow directions.

Immediate response to an unsafe condition is essential to providing safe transportation, be that a parent driving a car or a driver behind the wheel of a school bus. No argument from either perspective concerning this issue.

Regardless, the effect of no progressive discipline for our nation's school bus drivers can affect every area of maintaining a safe bus environment. At some facilities unruly children experience neither progressive or immediate intervention. They have an infomercial policy, not progressive or immediate intervention.

Too many children die crossing the road while failing to follow safe crossing procedures. The motorist disobeys the law, the bus driver and school fail to enforce that to ride the bus all riders must follow the bus driver’s directions, and too many children disobey safe crossing procedures.

And too many end up unesecarily maimed or worse. When a motorist is within the law children can still die at the bus stop because the bus rider failed to follow safe crossing directions.

This past December 13-year-old Ashley Clark did not wait for her school bus to come to a complete stop, wait for the red crossing lights and stop sign to activate, and wait the bus driver’s signal before crossing to board in early morning darkness. She was struck and killed by a motorist proceeding around the bus while the yellow caution lights were still activated. The motorist did not have the time needed to stop.

An Erie County (PA) judge found that the circumstances that led the motorist to strike Clark with his car as she crossed a dark highway did not amount to a crime. The judge said an array of facts, including evidence that the motorist was driving sober, below the speed limit and did not expect to encounter Clark -- who, police said, was crossing the road improperly, or jaywalking, at the time of the collision -- did not support the claim that the motorist acted with the criminal recklessness required to prove the charges. (~ Erie Times-News)

Parents of kids that refuse to follow safe crossing directions can not expect to blame a lawful behaving motorist or the bus driver when something goes amiss.

Refusing to follow directions on the bus and at the bus stop, including when crossing the road are life-threatening offenses. Referrals to the school and nothing done?

When something goes amiss the industry standard at too many facilities is to blame the bus driver.

Actually enforcing a safe crossing procedure alone could add up to 15-minutes to a route when involving several children that must cross the road. Who wants to pay for that?

Progressive discipline is abused when nothing is done. Too many schools treat students refusing to cross in a safe manner as a minor offense, rarely removing a student from the bus until fully resolved.  When discovered the bus driver knew the child was repeatedly disobeying directions and reported that to the school authority; and when the school ignores a child’s life-threatening behavior, then a personal injury attorney may decide the parents' have a case to present to the court.

Reading the SBF article carefully may suggest an attack on the decent treatment of school bus drivers and the civil kids riding the buses, a cuddle bear management style riddled with illusions of gloom and doom in my opinion when progressive discipline is actually enforced.

When concerning children, how many children die solely because the privilege to ride the school bus is revoked?

How many children die, are maimed, or otherwise abused when a facility can not keep the best help, and begins hiring from under the bus driver candidate bucket?

The author includes a quote, "most nationally recognized driver trainers and safe-driving organizations...," which assumes that one accident is a strong indicator that a more serious accident is likely at a later time.

The best drivers make mistakes. My twenty plus years career included popping a window while creeping a small front engine transit bus through a ripped up school driveway under construction, the bus suddenly leaning into a gate poll. The other three or four conventional and transit buses at that branch terminal went through without incident, but not my bus - not that morning.

Another incident was bending a mirror on another bus while parking and when behind the wheel of a bigger conventional bus assigned at that time.

Another incident, damaging the door glass on a mailbox while backing during a turn-a-round when behind the wheel of a new large rear engine transit the first day assigned to that bus.

Also, hit a trashcan the wind blew in to the road with opposing traffic blocking an escape and no time to stop.

These events happened over the course of some 21-years. Would not be good for me and perhaps for the community had their been no time limit and a manager at some point happened not to like me. Would next driver know to turn off the main power from outside the bus, to help save both the kids and the bus when my bus caught fire.

No crashes with other vehicles or ditches, and no dead kids. And no speeding tickets.

Half of these events involved a shortage of school bus drivers at that time, which seemed to compel management and drivers alike to get behind the wheel when not feeling well.

A recent comment from a member of my Facebook page mentioned, “I slipped and fell. ... I hurt myself badly, but managed to get up and go to work. ... I got up the next morning in so much pain I was sick to my stomach. I called in to try and get my runs covered so I could go see the doctor. Before [my supervisor] even heard what happened my boss said "I hope you're not calling in for another driver because I don't have any.” ... I could barely lift my feet to work the gas/brake. ... I went to the doctor for x-rays. Turns out I had a bruised hip, a bruised pelvic bone, and a cracked rib. Yeah, but I was faking to get out of work.” (This comment was edited to obscure the author and for brevity.)

Does a bus driver belong behind the wheel of a school bus when ill or injured?

How is it that too many in management ignore the many bus drivers that end up driving when sick or injured, so obviously placing children, the bus, motorists, pedestrians, and the bus drivers themselves at unnecessary risk? 

When a state does not enforce 'Just Cause', or 'Good Cause', or has otherwise eliminated fair treatment of employees, unfair treatment is soon to follow.

Terri McCloskey speaks about her case
while her attorneys Timothy O'Brien (left)
and Richard Matesic look on. James Knox
 Here are just a few events from the thousands upon thousands of media stories over the years. These are recent:

Management fired Terri L. McCloskey, 48, eight years a Pennsylvania school bus driver that had experimented with drugs in her youth and convicted for it was fired nearly 30-years later for that mistake. She had completely changed her life over the years, but that carried no weight whatsoever.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) officials are going back 40 years in an internal review of teacher discipline cases to determine if any of those teachers should be referred for possible license revocation.

Going that far back? Does the plan include sending notice to a selected teacher's nursing home that one of their patient's license to teach is revoked? You think plenty that far back are dead?

The unnecessary stress of the job, including workplace bullying, is shortening the lifespan of teachers and school bus drivers alike can be accelerated without progressive discipline to hold these management anomalies at bay.  Keep in mind that management is the main instigator of bullying in the workplace. (~ Workplace Bullying Institute)

 It is not just the targets of workplace bullying adversely affected. According to a Time Business Magazine article, a study by Canadian researchers, published in the most recent issue of the journal Human Relations, suggests that co-workers who witness bullying are also traumatized by the phenomenon, and are as likely as victims themselves to look for a new job. ~ Workplace Bullying: The Problem — and Its Costs — Are Worse Than We Thought

These are issues happening right now in too many workplaces, yet regulators and school officials seem distracted by what could be termed ‘witch hunts.’

Dallessandro claims to be human and claims to make mistakes. The article is a mistake that could do more harm than good.

Let’s not muddy up the convenience to terminate on the spot anyone not liked and for any reason, except for what the author of the article can tolerate, things like tardiness, absenteeism or drivers room behavior.

Let's get it over with. Seems appropriate that the author, a director of school transportation should be fired on the spot -- Now, not later, and no progressive discipline involved please.

Apparently, it is the human thing to do these days.

Dallessandro acknowledges a reality, “...that humans will make mistakes during the course of their workday, and [progressive discipline] is recognized as a teaching tool that can slowly alter the behaviors of people who care about their job and their coworkers. It is a tool that can help to improve employee performance. Progressive discipline is also used to bring fairness to employee discipline.” ... “When used properly, progressive discipline can be a good and just system.”

Progressive discipline is actually essential in an interdependent workplace, works very well and oftentimes works immediately with the civil.

Research suggests that higher incomes, safe workplaces, job security and healthcare access help contribute to favorable health. The effect roughly offsets the effects of five years of aging or being divorced, (as opposed to married). (~ Megan M. Reynolds, David Brady, Duke University)

Progressive discipline does not work well with uncivil children and uncivil adults alike. Who would want a pedophile to commit three sexual offenses, or a driver to commit three murders before removed from driving school buses? Regardless, the courts and the regulations in most states seem to have that sort of thing covered well enough and without a specific employer policy involved.

The best workplace policy includes an interdependent progressive discipline policy for the civil, and options to remedy the malbehavior of the uncivil involved in the most serious of events that do happen on occasion.  Both are needed to promote a healthy workplace, in my opinion. The policy does not have to be one extreme or the other extreme.

What is actually needed are workplace progressive discipline policies that help restrain hostile managers, that interdependently covers school bus drivers driving the buses, for children riding the buses, and that protect the civil with options that remedy the more serious events from the uncivil that can be agreed to require a faster remedy.

It may be time that managers in the school bus industry (and elsewhere) stop whining about unions and the progressive discipline that they agreed to follow, and start negotiating appropriate policies with their employees, and/or their employees’ union?


  1. Those of us w/o unions and do our jobs suffer for the behavior of those drivers that do not.our bus co. Has now set down the rule of not leaving a charter after u reach it,not even to go find a restroom if none is available.we are expected to use the trash can like a cats litter box.thats not respect but they. Want 110% from us.

    1. Wow! You could be arrested if caught doing that in a public trashcan, possibly even if doing that on your bus. Had you said use a fire hydrant to relieve yourself, I'd say that company treat's you like a dog. What about #2? You may have a workplace safety and health complaint. Since your situation applies to all the drivers an anonymous complaint can likely be sustained. As long as you do not tell anyone concerning your complaint, it can remain confidential. If not OSHA would first advise of that before proceeding.

      How to File a Complaint with OSHA

  2. How do you explain the odor if you do a #2 in your trash can while the kids show up at the door wanting on? The policy is ridiculous and would think not enforceable. But some managers I suppose are freaks that treat their employees that badly until stopped.

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