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  • TC Blog 7 - School Bus ConflictWith the start of 2014-2015 school year in full swing, children across the country will be boarding the school bus to arrive before the morning bell sounds. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, school buses are the safest mode of transportation for getting children back and forth to school. But how safe is a child from the other children inside of the bus? School bus bullying is becoming a growing concern among parents, school administrations, and bus drivers. According to the U.S. Department of Education 10 percent of school bullying occurs on the school bus. Stopbullying.gov defines bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.”

    What are the signs of a child being bullied on the school bus?
    • Reluctance to ride the school bus
    • Repeated occurrences of “missing the bus”
    • Asking others to take them to school to avoid the bus

    School bus drivers have a very important task, which is to make sure every child on the bus arrives safely to and from school. To prevent or stop school bus bullying, it takes a village (parents, teachers, and bus drivers).

    What can you do if a child is being bullied on the bus?
    • Listen – It’s not easy for a child to say they are being picked on. When they bring it up, listen.
    • Ask open-ended questions. An open-ended question can’t be answered with a yes or no response. Some examples of open-ended questions are:

    • What happened on the bus today?
    • How did you feel about riding the bus today?
    • Who do you like to sit with on the bus?
    • Who do you stay away from on the bus?

    The buddy system – Have the child sit with a neighbor or friend.
    • Have the child being bullied sit on the right front side of the bus. They can be seen in the bus driver’s mirror.

    How can the school administrators and bus drivers be involved?
    If you feel that more action is necessary, you can contact the school administration and find out what policies are in place for bullying on the school bus. If the school buses have assigned seats, suggest that they separate the children that are being bullied or are bullying others. Also some school buses may have cameras, find out if the child’s bus has a camera that could discourage bullying.

    All children deserve to be and feel safe on the bus and at the school. Don’t let a child start their school day off as a victim of bullying. By working to identify and prevent bullying on the bus and at school, they can start and end their school day without fear of being threatened. This will take the joint effort from teachers, parents, bus drivers, and the school administration. It is time to start making a difference, how aware are you?

    By Tracy Culbreath
    Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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  • truancyWhat is Truancy?

    With the new school year vastly approaching, I feel it is necessary to discuss a topic that is affecting our youth today. Truancy or truant is a term used for a student who has multiple unexcused absences from school. Truancy affects all school age children from kindergarten to high school. Please note the definition may vary slightly depending on your specific state or school district laws. There are two forms of truancy – habitual and chronic. Habitual truancy is when a student misses five or more consecutive schools days, seven or more days in a month or twelve days in a year. Likewise, chronic truancy is a student who misses seven or more consecutive days, ten days in a month, or fifteen in a year.

    A few examples of excused/unexcused absences are:

    Excused absences: illness with a doctor’s note, death in the family, hazardous weather conditions
    Unexcused absences: missing the bus, not wanting to attend school, family trips, work

    What Causes Truancy?

    There are many factors that can attribute to truant behavior. The Juvenile Justice Bulletin correlates four major categories to truancy:

    • Family Factors- lack of parental supervision, domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, different viewpoints about education.
    • School Factors – school size, nonchalant attitude of the teachers, inconsistent consequences for absentee students
    • Economic Influences – single parent, student working full-time, lack of transportation to and from school
    • Student Variables – substance abuse, bullying, health issues, stress and other mental health issues

    What are the Consequences of Truancy?

    The consequences of truancy can have long term effects on students and their families such as dropping out of school, alcohol /drug abuse, criminal activity, teen pregnancy, court fines, or even jail time.

     What is Being Done to Address Truant Behavior?

    Some states and school districts have enacted an automated calling system which notifies parents when their child is not marked “present” in the computer. Other states, such as Arizona and California created a program which enforces mandatory school attendance. A county in Arizona, developed program called CUTS (Court Unified Truancy Suppression) which assist and educates the truant offenders by educating and addresses the needs of the child and family. California’s program is called S.T.O.P. (Stop Truancy Opportunity Program) which is a five-step program that notifies the parent of unexcused absences. Once the student reaches the fifth step (7th unexcused absence) a petition with the Juvenile Justice Court is filed requesting the minor be placed on Formal Probation.

    What Can Parents Do?

    • Speak to your child about truancy and its effects on their life and yours
    • Stay actively involved in your child’s school and personal life
    • Encourage your child to excel in school
    • Be a listening ear
    • Look for negative behaviors and changes in mood and address them promptly
    • Try truancy mediation

    Some states have a special mediation service called truancy mediation. The NSCS (National Center of State Court) will provide you with additional information by state. Listen to our podcast Truancy Mediation-What You Should Know with Michelle Zaremba and Trisha Werts as they discuss truancy and how mediation can be a valuable process for the student, parents, and schools.

    By Yvette Watson Jenkins
    Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program


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  • Roommate ProblemsWhen I was pursing undergrad, my friends often came to me with roommate conflicts. When you prepare to go away to college, you talk to your parents about the supplies you will need, how bills will be paid, and map out your plans for when you will visit again. But you don’t talk to your parents about what you will do when your roommate is messy, eats your food, or just has a different lifestyle than you.

    Universities and Community Colleges have prep classes that offer guidance on adjusting to college life and highlight the differences between high school and undergrad, but what is often missing from the curriculum is conflict management. They don’t tell you how to have a difficult conversation regarding the upkeep of your dorm, the policies on visitors, or rules for food in the refrigerator.

    Some other roommate conflicts college students may encounter are:
    • Lack of privacy
    • Borrowing without permission
    • Study time vs party time
    • Lifestyle differences

    The question is how do you resolve these differences when experiencing them for the first time? Colleges often have conflict resolution mechanisms in place such as the Resident Advisor (RA) or the Student Resources Office. Resident advisors are usually students responsible for fostering a community atmosphere in dorms and resident halls. They can serve as peer counselors and enforce policies to ensure the safety of students living in the facility. Student Resource Offices strive to help students succeed at the institute and provide a wealth of resources ranging from job and internship placement to resume building workshops. Academic Advisors and counselors can sometimes be found in Student Resource Offices.

    Some students may take advantage of their RA’s and Student Resource Offices. However, others shy away from these third parties and try to solve conflicts on their own. Here are some tips that may be helpful to you to reduce potential roommate conflicts:
    • Check your false assumptions and listen to the roommate’s perspective. For example, Anna came home at 4am on the eve of your Biology final. The next evening you confront her about her lack of respect when you were sleeping. What you didn’t know was that Anna was rear-ended coming home from the library and had spent the wee hours of the morning waiting for a tow truck.
    • Be transparent. Your roommate only knows what you tell them. Another typical example is you are homesick. You make an excuse and cancel your plans to go out with your roommate because you spent the last of your money on comfort foods. Your roommate’s feelings are hurt. Be careful not to assume they know how you feel.
    • Set guidelines or roommate rules. Discuss and decide upfront if you are going to rotate buying groceries, when the latest visitor is allowed over, and determine the rules for sharing and borrowing of property among other issues important to each of you.

    Conflict is inevitable but the key to effective conflict management is to address the issues head on by checking your false assumptions, being transparent, and setting guidelines. Don’t let your disputes tackle you, being proactive will not only strengthen the quality of interaction between you and your roommate but also prevent conflict from making your living arrangement uncomfortable. Remember, if you don’t voice your concerns, you don’t give your roommate a chance to address them.

    Now go out there and have a great start to your school year!

    By Tracy Culbreath
    Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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Welcome to Texas Conflict Coach®. I am your host Pattie Porter, conflict resolution expert, mediator, conflict coach, facilitator and speaker. - Read More

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