PENDLETON- For many students, school doesn't start when the bell rings, it starts the minute they board a school bus. And for some of those students, bullying also starts on their ride to school.
Mid-Columbia Bus Company realizes that and thanks to Oregon House Bill 3403 - which requires school districts to adopt policies prohibiting bullying, harassment and intimidation - bus drivers are trying to help curb the bullying problem.
"I've had such awesome results in working with kids with this rule," said Mark Parm, the local manager of Mid-Columbia Bus. "I love that the kids are working with this. It's really made a difference."
Parm served as guest speaker Wednesday morning at the Reducing Bullying and Harassment in Schools and Communities group's quarterly meeting at Umatilla County Public Health.
The group includes school administrators, counselors, Public Health officials, students, parents and other community representatives who work to reduce bullying and harassment, as well as raise awareness of the issue.
Parm said all Mid-Columbia bus drivers have gone through special training to learn about the law, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2004, and how to best enforce it.
The training was taught by Mark Thompson, a bullying and harassment specialist contracted by the Umatilla-Morrow Education Service District.
Thompson made such an impact on the Mid-Columbia employees that officials asked him to be a substitute bus driver. Thompson has accepted and will begin riding along with bus drivers in March and will complete training in the summer.
Parm said it's important for students and parents to understand bullying is not OK at school, on the bus or at the bus stop.
"The bus is no different from the classroom," he said. "Every kid is entitled to a safe bus ride to school. School starts at that bus stop."
He noted that when the bus company is made aware of a problem at a bus stop, a Mid-Columbia or school district official or school aid will go there to supervise until the problem stops.
Parents also need to cooperate to quash the issue.
"Parents out there are sort of assuming what their children do, not what their children are actually doing," Parm said. "When I deal with those ... parents, they don't realize their child is causing a problem."