LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A pilot program that will place volunteer monitors on some of Jefferson County Public Schools' most challenging bus routes is expected to begin later this month.

Michael Raisor, JCPS chief operations officer, said the idea for the program came from Dear JCPS, a stakeholder advocacy group that was launched last year by a group of concerned parents and community members.

"We've had some community members come to us and say they would be interested in volunteering to ride some of these routes and we've decided to go ahead and give it a try," Raisor told WDRB News. 

The district is planning to provide a full day of training for a group of about a dozen volunteers the week of Feb. 15. The volunteers must submit to a background check and interview process for vetting purposes -- similar to the way JCPS approves coaches.

Gay Adelmann, co-founder of Dear JCPS, said the idea for the volunteer bus monitors comes after reading and hearing various media reports about how some of the district's bus drivers are struggling to control fights and other disruptive student behavior.

"Our drivers need to be focused on driving and not turning around and breaking up fights and making sure people stay in their seats," Adelmann said. "Having one or two adults why the driver is driving is a no-brainer." 

A WDRB investigation found that two-thirds of the discipline referrals written by JCPS bus drivers involve students who ride only 5 percent of the district’s 964 bus routes.

Of the 2,763 bus referrals written through the first 70 days of the 2015-16 year, 1,830 of the referrals came from the 50 routes previously identified by the district as the most ‘challenging’ in Louisville. 

Those referrals stemmed from relatively minor incidents such as students repeatedly turning around in their seats, refusing to sit down or littering on the bus to more serious incidents such as fighting, having a weapon or committing another criminal act.

District officials say JCPS only has 231 bus monitors. Of that number, 128 are assigned to special-needs buses, 75 are part-time and based at the school level and 28 are full-time transportation employees.

Adniana Harris, a 23-year JCPS veteran bus driver, said she’s seen bullying, cursing, spitting, fights and assaults –– and cautions that the volunteers need to know what they are getting into.

"They really have to be a strong person," Harris said. "They can't be weak. They've got to be their to do the job to protect (the kids)."

Raisor said the district transports 70,000 students to and from school daily and adds that the "vast majority" of kids behave while riding the bus.

He said JCPS is looking at a number of solutions to help combat the small percentage of students who misbehave.

"We have found that sometimes a monitor can help...someone who can help de-escalate situations that occur on a bus," Raisor said. "But it's been difficult for us to get bus monitors. It's a split shift -- you have to find someone who work in the morning and in the afternoon for about $9-10 an hour."

Adelmann said a few parents and several teachers have already expressed interest in the pilot program.

"Teachers can do it right away because they have already been through the training," Adelmann said. 

Adelmann said the pilot program will start small -- they are seeking about 20 initial volunteers who will work in pairs on some of the challenging routes in the afternoons.

"It's easy to sit back and point fingers and find blame, we are trying to be part of the solution," Adelmann said. "We are putting our kids on these buses each day and if we want our children to be safe, we need to do something."

Those interested in volunteering can send an email to moderator@dearjcps.com. 


Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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