COLUMBIA — More than 250 bus drivers, transportation directors, mechanics and school administrators are in Columbia this week for the Missouri Association for Pupil Transportation conference.
The focus of many of the presentations throughout the week is prevention of violence and bullying on school buses.
One of Tuesday's sessions was a character education training program called WHEELS led by Gina Crump, a state project facilitator for the Missouri Character Education Project.
The WHEELS program was created to support students being bullied on buses. Crump discussed several themes of how "good character impacts bus safety."
Drivers, students and school administrators should see the bus as an extension of the school day or as "a traveling classroom," Crump said. Session attendees made lists of ideas of how they can accomplish this, including "Happy Grams" to recognize students' good work and decorating buses with their artwork and papers.
Other ideas introduced by Crump were "Bus Buddies" — pairing older students with younger ones — and creating a "Bus Task Force" to give student riders safety responsibilities.
Thursday's agenda includes presentations similar to Crump's, such as "School Bus Driver Prevention and Detention of Violence" and "Tears on the Highway" about recognizing bullying and how to reduce it.
The overall theme for the conference, which began Tuesday, is "Crossing the Finish Line Safely."
The objectives of the conference are to provide members with information on safe and efficient transportation to take back to their districts, said Dennis Hamann, executive director of the Missouri Association for Pupil Transportation.