Bus drivers can play a critical role in identifying and supporting homeless students, according to an article by Asher Lehrer-Small for The 74. School bus drivers are uniquely positioned to recognise the tell-tale signs of homelessness in students, such as changes in pick-up and drop-off locations, missing winter coats, or no car in the driveway. In rural districts like Vermont, where a lack of social support systems make homelessness particularly difficult, bus drivers can help identify and support students who may otherwise slip through the cracks.
In Vermont, the Kingdom East School District has contracted with a transportation service to help transport students experiencing homelessness. Bus drivers like Gregory Pierce, who has been a driver for over a decade, provide not only transportation services, but also offer a listening ear and emotional support to students. Pierce gets to know the students on his bus, treats them like family, and provides gifts like grocery cards and hams to families during the holidays.
Once homeless students are identified, transportation staff play an important role in supporting the students, such as by ensuring the students are the first to be picked up and the last to be dropped off to avoid outing them as homeless to their peers. The district’s guidance counselors provide backpacks full of clothes and food to bus drivers, who discreetly give them to students in need.
According to a report, US schools identified over a million students as homeless in the 2020-21 school year, but even these figures may be an undercount as thousands of districts reported zero homelessness. Homeless students are known to have lower overall attendance, lower test scores, and lower high school graduation rates than other students. Vermont, in particular, has the second-highest per capita rate of homelessness in the US, and although the state provides temporary shelter to a higher share of its homeless residents than any other state, Vermont has a brutal housing affordability crisis that is exacerbating the problem of homelessness.
As school districts work to support their homeless students, the role of bus drivers in identifying and supporting these students is critical. By building relationships with students and paying attention to changes in their circumstances, bus drivers can help ensure that these students receive the support they need to succeed.
Sustainable development and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are crucial for creating a more equitable and prosperous world. It requires a collective effort from governments, businesses, civil society, and individuals to address the complex challenges we face. The vision of a global society that prioritizes sustainability and social justice is attainable but requires significant changes in policies, attitudes, and behaviors. By working towards the SDGs and committing to sustainable development, we can build a world that is more resilient, inclusive, and just for all. It is only by working together that we can make progress towards a better future for ourselves and future generations.