Back of the bus: Does separating boys and girls on school bus enhance safety?

I’ve been following an interesting Facebook discussion about a new policy at an APS high school requiring boys sit in the front of the school bus and girls in the back.

school-bus-clipart-MKTjjygiqStudents told parents the segregated seating is a new rule from APS. But parents commented they were unaware of the policy and had never heard about it.

I asked Atlanta Public Schools about gender seating on its buses and received this reply today:

“Separating students by gender is not a policy or regulation, however bus drivers have the autonomy to determine how to best position students in their buses in the same way that teachers have that autonomy in their classrooms. Separating students by gender is a commonly used behavior management strategy, especially in middle and high schools. Atlanta Public Schools’ overall priority is to ensure the safety and security of our student bus riders.”

Strategic seating in classrooms has always been part of the teacher tool box. (The nuns were always shuffling seats in my Catholic school. With 40 of us in the class, there were plenty of options.) It’s not surprising it occurs on school buses as well.

However, I’ve seen teachers use the opposite tack on field trips. They purposely sit boys with girls, finding boys tone down their exuberance as a result.

Most parents would endorse gender separation on school buses if drivers believe it enhances safety. However, a friend has 12-year-old boy-girl twins, and they like to sit together. She thinks gender separation — in this case by a private school in New York — is unfair and has argued against it. She says there’s no real evidence separating boys and girls makes for calmer bus travel.

The parents commenting on Facebook were concerned schools did not explain why bus riders were segregated or provide any notification.

But one parent wrote:  “At the risk of sounding uncaring: so?”

Any different thoughts out there? Is there value in segregating by gender on school buses?

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Reader Comments 0

62 comments
Victoria DeCarlo
Victoria DeCarlo

I have been a school bus driver for over 23 years. I love and respect my job, and I'm good at it. Some years back I took on a bus run that I drove students to a vocational school about 50 minutes away from our district. They were so unruly. There was definitely a safety issue there. I observed their behavior for the first 3 days to figure out a solution for order. It actually came down to the decision of separating the genders in this case. When they realized this bus driver was taking control over the bus, they became respectful, their behavior changed for the better. In time, I rewarded their good behavior by allowing the genders to once again sit together, and they behaved respectfully as they should! If separating students by age, by gender is what it takes for the sake of 'safety' for all involved.....then so be it. If there is no 'order', then there will be 'chaos'. I chose 'order'.

Irene Vertullo Gersch
Irene Vertullo Gersch

I appreciate your professional insight and opinion . I'm in Long Island NY and our distrist has several problems regarding our buses not directly due to bus drivers more bc of bus company and Distrist . It's just a mess and has been for years .

Right now my daughters bus ( k-2) has gender separation with class grade separation with all kindergarten in the front .

It's not working , particularly bc my daughters " assigned seat " is by herself and not due to any reason . She is on the bus for 40 mins when the school is no longer then 5 minutes away .

The gender separation is a big issue because the all the boys in the back and middle are clustered together and LOUD and rowdy . BECAUSE THEY ATE BOYS!

This is set up on purpose so the bus driver is not distracted driving the bus .

However my 5 year old daughter who sits by herself 4 seats always from the bus driver complains of the incredible loud noise .

Most important when my 6th grader was on this bus , then the grade 3-5 bus ( just separated by boys in back and girls in front)

He was getting beat up ( physically with marks on him ) and bullied on the bus ( sill does) because he HAD sit with boys in the back ! I

Think TAKING CHARGE WITH RHE BUS DRIVER ASSIGNING SEATS IS EXCELLENT BUT STUDENTS CANT GET COMFORTABLE AND THE ASSIGNED SEATS NEED TO BE RE ASSIGBED ALL THE TOME

Irene Vertullo Gersch
Irene Vertullo Gersch

I appreciate your professional insight and opinion . I'm in Long Island NY and our distrist has several problems regarding our buses not directly due to bus drivers more bc of bus company and Distrist . It's just a mess and has been for years .

Right now my daughters bus ( k-2) has gender separation with class grade separation with all kindergarten in the front .

It's not working , particularly bc my daughters " assigned seat " is by herself and not due to any reason . She is on the bus for 40 mins when the school is no longer then 5 minutes away .

The gender separation is a big issue because the all the boys in the back and middle are clustered together and LOUD and rowdy . BECAUSE THEY ATE BOYS!

This is set up on purpose so the bus driver is not distracted driving the bus .

However my 5 year old daughter who sits by herself 4 seats always from the bus driver complains of the incredible loud noise .

Most important when my 6th grader was on this bus , then the grade 3-5 bus ( just separated by boys in back and girls in front)

He was getting beat up ( physically with marks on him ) and bullied on the bus ( sill does) because he HAD sit with boys in the back !

smoore1976
smoore1976

Personally it makes absolutely no difference to me whether my son sits next to a girl or a boy on the bus. Right now I have to stress the issue of my son not needing to sit on the floor while the bus in en route!!

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

Khomeini favored single-sex schools in his speech at the anniversary of the birth of Fatimah bint Muhammad, saying:

As the religious leaders have influence and power in this country, they will not permit girls to study in the same school with boys. They will not permit women to teach at boys' schools. They will not permit men to teach at girls' schools. They will not allow corruption in this country.[4]

Sex segregation of public places such as beaches or swimming pools was ordered and legally introduced.


Folks, is this where we're heading?  With the current leadership?? (and I use that term extremely loosely) anything is possible.  Watch out folks, this is just a subtle message of the way our country is heading.  Segregation of boys and girls on School Systems Transportation should be avoided at all costs.  In the first place, "It's STUPID",,and secondly I don't think it would stand up in a legal challenge; however, there again, with our current and former AG's, the rules of law mean nothing.  Folks, start paying attention at what's happening in our country.  

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

@Wascatlady @An American Patriot Since I'm an eighth grade graduate, I really don't know how to interpret your comment; however, knowing your commenting skills, I can't help but feel there's something snarky in there somewhere.

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

Maybe it's because I last rode a school bus so long ago (17 years I think), but has there been some kind of epidemic of kids being injured on school buses?

4PublicEducation
4PublicEducation

As an assistant principal I often spent several hours giving due process (listening to eye witnesses) to try to find out the truth about a bus incident.  Obviously the bus driver cannot be sure because we hope his/her eyes were on the road.  They do write-ups by student reports and send the problem to administrators once they reach the school.  WE NEED A PARAPRO ON THE BUS.  This is the only way to truly maintain discipline and safety,  The driver should not be expected to supervise and drive.  I have know drivers that by the sheer force of personality can make kids think they know what is going on, but a lot goes on that they don't see and in today's world we would call a lot of it bullying.  I have made this suggestion before to school officials, but they say parapros write up too many kids for minor stuff.  I think this could be fixed by saying, "Don't write up kids for minor stuff.'  Riding on the bus is close to "Lord of the Flies".  After years of listening to kids, they need a grown-up to keep order and keep it from turning into the law of the jungle.


4PublicEducation
4PublicEducation

@Wascatlady @4PublicEducation The cameras are above the rear view mirror and aim straight down the center aisle.  It misses a lot of the action.  It doesn't catch things that happen behind the seat backs or kindergartners crawling under the seats.  It was never much help to me.  They are not always turned on.  If a really big fight happened, it would catch some of it.

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

@4PublicEducation One big difference between Lord of the Flies and a school bus:  the kids are on the bus for 15 minutes maximum.

Rebeldude
Rebeldude

Seating arrangement is the only authority that the bus driver really has. Other than that he/she can report an unruly student but discipline is in the hands of the schools/parents. Whether or not separating certain students works depends on the kids. Most of the time that I've seen drivers use this approach it has been boys on one side girls on the other not back front. To me a bigger problem than this is forcing kids to ride buses that are not air conditioned in August. While the bus is waiting to load kids at schools to take them home the temperature on that bus can increase 15 -20 degrees higher than the temperature outside. The first kids loaded will sit in this oven for 8-10 minutes. Even after the bus begins moving the temperature will not drop below the outside temp. If my kids were still in school that would concern me more than where they sit.      

Englewood5700
Englewood5700

The back of the bus is where the troublemakers sit, which is also where the popular kids all sit.

Rebeldude
Rebeldude

@Englewood5700 No actually the trouble makers are made to sit up front so that the bus driver can keep an eye on them.


popacorn
popacorn

Somehow, kids have survived riding in school busses forever. Worry more about the toxic fumes given off in the front of the class.

straker
straker

Don't worry.


Before long, some parent will file a lawsuit, and this will go away.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

We have all ages K-12 on the same bus together, but I don't think this has ever been used.  I think several of the drivers have to assign seats to try to isolate the troublemakers from each other.  Of course, that means the good kids act as padding--it would be so much better to just deny the continuous troublemakers the use of the bus for the rest of the school year.


Until parents are inconvenienced (made to get out of bed) little correction seems to happen at home.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@CSpinks @Wascatlady The teachers are in full support, as they have to deal with these same kids doing the same stuff in their classrooms.


However, many of the administrators believe in magic--give them another chance--so that the bus drivers stay angry and frustrated.  The other parents of kids on the buses complain, to no avail.  However, many of the more powerful parents do not allow their children to ride the bus, so their voices are mute.   I lay this one squarely on administrators and their supervisors who don't seem to back them up.  One day there will be a terrible, deadly accident because of this, or a child will be seriously harmed because of the assault of one of these kids.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@Wascatlady Are teachers and parents cooperating to get changed the stupid regulation forbidding the expulsion of troublemakers from buses for the remainder of the school year? Riding a school bus is not a constitutional right. It's a privilege and should be quickly lost for serious misbehavior.


If we teachers aren't cooperating with the parents of appropriately behaving kids, why aren't we?

GC1029
GC1029

Sure.  Hasidic Jews, Muslims, and others do it.  Maybe we should have the girls cover from head to toe too.

RomanLegions
RomanLegions

Based on past experience, it depends heavily on the age of the students your are separating. Sometimes being separated peaks curiosity..

babs_Atl
babs_Atl

Whatever the driver thinks will help with safety is the main issue here......... we do have a boys' bus and girls' bus when there are enough on a route to fill both! And it's worked for several years. But others are mixed. And, yes, get the troublemakers off the bus. The parents might be more interested if they had to handle the child's transportation.


A veteran teacher--- who doesn't have the guts to drive a bus

dave87
dave87

Why not have 2 buses? 1 for males the other for females. smh

bu2
bu2

@dave87 

My kids elementary did that on field trips.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I would think getting troublemakers, male or female, off the bus would resolve problems.  Perhaps that hard line approach would make parents happy, UNTIL IT HAPPENS TO BE THEIR KID!


Surely your friend in NY can grant authority to the bus driver, and even her twins can be apart for a few minutes to ride home.  Time to shut up.


Why would the bus driver need to provide notification?  Would the parent want the bus driver to send out, "Johnny Fricks is a terrible troublemaker and threat to safety on the bus, so I have decided to seat him completely alone on the first two rows of the bus.  His twin, Suzie Fricks,  cannot keep her hands off the boys; fearing pregnancy, she is seated alone on the last two rows of the bus."  Sheess!  Why do people believe they know everything?  And that they get to make all the decisions, no matter what!  If you don't like the seating arrangement, drive your own kids to school every day!

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

Why are there no seat belts on these vehicles?  A cross shoulder belt, electronically monitored, would add significantly to safety as well as civilized behavior.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Ralph-43


Mainly because of concerns about fires.  Fire can spread very quickly on a bus and if children are buckled in, they may be unable to get unbuckled quickly enough to get everyone off the bus in the event of a fire.  We train to get students off the bus in under 45 seconds.  The problems with a quick exit when students are buckled in is especially apropos if you are dealing with younger children.  A driver would not have time to unbuckle the belts of dozens of children before the fire spread and small children might not be able to do so in the stress of the moment.  Bus seats are also very high backed and padded to add extra protection in case of an accident.  Children tend to bounce off the seats in front of them.  There are certainly issues if the bus rolls, or if children are thrown to the ceiling for any reason, but safety studies have determined that there is more risk from fire that from blunt trauma so that lets would be more of a hinderance than a help.  I do sometimes wonder if belts might be an option at the upper grades, but many buses transport both older and younger students, so belts are not provided.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Ralph-43 They would be vandalized within hours, and the pieces could be used as weapons.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Ralph-43 Yeah, I know it sounds like I am talking about prison inmates.  Some of the kids are in training.

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

@Quidocetdiscit Most three year olds can buckle and unbuckle complicated car seat harnesses.  Believe me, 5 year olds can easily handle a single buckle cross shoulder.  Also, no vandalism noted on plane belts.  The life saving features of car seat belts is now well documented.  If you have actual data on the risks of properly fitted seats belts to children please present it because the Federal Highway Safety Commission is unaware of your data.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Ralph-43 @Quidocetdiscit However, we have few riders of airplanes quite like the kids I am talking about.  They use sharp objects to shred the brand new seats!

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Ralph-43 @Quidocetdiscit


Can most five year olds unbuckle a seat belt and escape a burning bus following an accident?  Under stress, even adults do not always react quickly and efficiently.  Little children, even less so.

Truly S.
Truly S.

@Quidocetdiscit @Ralph-43 There's also the issue of special-needs kids. They're not all necessarily going to be able to unbuckle their belts quickly and easily in a crisis, and there aren't going to be enough aides available to help them.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Or, you could deal  with the 2-3 troublemakers that cause the majority of the issues.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Lee_CPA2


You would be amazed at how many parents refuse to believe their children have done anything wrong.  We have shown parents video tape of their children acting out on a bus and had parents claim the tapes were "doctored" or that it was "just a misunderstanding."  Our administration is very good about getting trouble makers off the bus, but you have to have administrators willing to deal with belligerent parents who threaten to call police, superintendents, the press and anyone else they can think of to cause problems.  Too many administrators do not have the backing and support from higher up, or the personal backbone to enforce the rules in the face of such threats.  Good administrators who will support their teachers, their bus drivers and their staff against unreasonable demands and mistreatment by some parents are golden!  We do not give them enough credit.


Unfortunately, it is not just the schools that suffer from the antics of such entitled and overbearing parents, but the children of the remaining parents as well. I often wish our more reasonable and considerate parents would be a bit more vocal behalf of their children.  If THEY would be the ones who went to the superintendent  then maybe things would change for the better.  One or two children might be disrupting the bus - but if the other parents demanded that the one child be taken off the bus before things got out of hand, then that would likely be what would happen.


In this case, it sounds as if the drivers are trying to find a way to deal with some of the disruptions on the bus.  If it works, great.  If not, no harm done.  Having to sit by sex (not gender BTW) for the time it takes to get them home is not going to cause any child any long term trauma, despite what some overly sensitive parents might claim.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Quidocetdiscit @Lee_CPA2 I agree--I have seen parents do this as well.  Funny how those not at school can think they know so much about what actually goes on!


Unfortunately in my system only a couple of the principals or APs have the kind of fortitude to permanently dismiss troublemakers.

anothercomment
anothercomment

If your child is white and get beat up on the bus in Cobb. Suddenly, the camera isn't working. I ten went to the police substation with my child and her black eye. The bus was on county roads when she was assaulted. When they asked me where I lived a $600k and up subdivision and where the offending child lived a section 8 apartment complex over a mile an a half a way. The cops response was are they stupid doing a bus route like that. It was that section 8 apartment and the 3 kids from my subdivision. The cop said we get the majority of our calls to the one apartment complex. What fool would put your subdivision on the same bus route. They quickly wrote the police report as a Jane Doe since my daughter only new she was a BLack 5th grade girl.

Cobb county then gave us a NCLB transfer the next year. You have to be dead or the person assaulting you has to be convicted of a felony, which they don't do to 5 h graders for a victim of crime transfer. My child never rode the bus again in Cobb.

In Fulton they don't mix houses with apartments!

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

The back of a bus is where the exhaust fumes are worst. Who decided which gender should sit there?

popacorn
popacorn

@OriginalProf 

I am sure a male decided this sexist arrangement, and this is a clear example of sex discrimination against girls. Rally!

(Either that or they just want to keep a closer eye on the boys or something similar.)

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@popacorn @OriginalProf Excuse the sensitivity.  Females have been overlooked historically. You might find the same question asked if the white kids were seated in the front, and the black kids in the rear!

popacorn
popacorn

@OriginalProf

That is a pre bra-burning rule. Again, can't have your cake and eat it too, gals. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@popacorn @Wascatlady @OriginalProf 

And what of the misogynists who think that the girls always should ride in the back of the bus, where it's bumpy and full of toxic deisel fumes? If authorities have to divide the bus seating by gender, why not do it down the middle so the bad seats in back are shared equally?  (I bring up this point as a female who used to get easily carsick as a child.)

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig  (below) True and sensible.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@OriginalProf


LOL!  When I rode the bus as a child, EVERYONE wanted to sit in the back of the bus.  That was where you got the most "bounce for the buck" every time you hit a pothole! It was much more fun than the front of the bus.   Of course, we did not equate it with the issue of racial discrimination because we were just kids, and did not have the historical understanding to realize the implications.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Quidocetdiscit @OriginalProf 

You're right about "gender" (cultural implications) rather than "sex" (physical implications).  And I guess the NY roads then were better paved than local ones now, which have potholes galore. But I still sort of gag to think of having to sit in the fume-y back of a bus bouncing over Atlanta roads for more than half an hour.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@OriginalProf @popacorn @Wascatlady Other examples:  The long-time Georgia men's tennis coach who was quoted as saying the new tennis courts should be reserved for the MEN"S team, and the "GIRL'S" team should be relegated to the old courts.


Or, at my local high school, where there is room for a boy's baseball field, but "no room" for a girl's softball field (they have to go and use the Park and Rec league field.)