A mother is calling for Phenix City Schools to fire the bus driver who turned around his after-school bus en route and dropped all 20 of the Lakewood primary and elementary school students back at their schools because two of them were being disruptive.
Wednesday afternoon, India Smith told the Ledger-Enquirer in an interview Thursday, she waited for her children to arrive at the bus stop outside their home. She became alarmed as the minutes went by without sight of the bus.
A school official called her and explained that the driver “threw the students off the bus but didn’t say anything to anyone” and the parents had to come to the school to pick them up, Smith said.
“My kids were very upset,” she said, “and they were crying.”
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Thursday morning, when she saw the same driver on the bus that stops outside her home, Smith drove her children to school instead. “I couldn’t let my kids get on that bus again,” she said. “I don’t feel comfortable with him driving them. They’re afraid to get on his bus.”
Smith added, “He had the audacity to drive the bus today as if nothing happened.”
Phenix City Schools superintendent Randy Wilkes, however, told the Ledger-Enquirer in an interview Thursday, “Any time there’s an unsafe bus, protocol is to bring it back to the school. Protocol was followed.”
Still, the school system continues to look into the incident, Wilkes said. “Any time we get complaints here in the office,” he said, “we conduct a very thorough investigation.”
It’s the second time within in the past month Smith has filed a complaint about the driver of the bus that transports her children, a 6-year-old daughter who attends Lakewood Primary School and an 8-year-old son who attends the adjacent Lakewood Elementary School.
Last month, Smith said, she “exchanged words” with the driver about “an issue he had with my daughter on the bus.” The driver told her that her daughter moved to another seat while the bus was moving, Smith said.
“He then stated that he had spoken to my husband, and I told him that was correct but he had not spoken to me,” Smith wrote in her complaint. “I explained that my children are part of a home with both parents and we work as a team. He then said, ‘Oh, so you wear the britches then?’ I was appalled at this and said, ‘Excuse me?’ I told him a complaint would be filed. He closed the door in my face and drove off.”
Wilkes declined to say how the November incident was handled. “It’s a personnel matter,” he said, then added, “Bus driving is the most difficult job in our school system. We appreciate all of our drivers.”
In a Nov. 7 letter to Smith, the school system’s transportation supervisor, David Gibson, said, “Please allow me to apologize for any unprofessional conduct you may have experienced with this driver. … While I am not at liberty to discuss specifics concerning employees, please know that your concerns have been heard and addressed. Action has been taken to prevent any such occurrence in the future.”
A month later, in the wake of this subsequent incident, Smith said the driver “should be terminated. He doesn’t deserve his job.”