Investigators: Kids missed bus stop, asked to be left at gas station
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. (WSVN) -- Broward County Public Schools officials said a logistical mixup on the first day of classes led a school bus driver to drop off seven middle school students at a Deerfield Beach gas station, miles away from their Coral Springs bus stop, an incident that angered the children's parents and compelled them to demand disciplinary action.
According to an investigation conducted by the Broward School Board Transportation Department, the bus driver transporting students from Forest Glen Middle School in Coral Springs reached the correct stop Monday afternoon. However, since the bus reached that location from the southbound side of the road, investigators said, the students, some of whom were beginning middle school on Monday, did not recognize the stop.
"I was like, 'What are we going to do?'" said student Kayla Vogel. "He dropped us off in the middle of [nowhere]. We didn't even know where we were."
Amanda Jaret, the mother of one of the students, said her daughter called her on the phone shortly before a Broward County bus driver dropped her off at the BP station on Sample Road and Southwest Third Street in Deerfield Beach, forcing her and six other classmates to fend for themselves without adult supervision. "She called me back around 5 o'clock and said, 'Mom, the bus is heading east on Sample, and he won't turn around,'" she said. "I finally found out that they got dropped off at the BP station."
Sixth grade student Priscilla Colon said the driver first attempted to drop off the students at their original bus stop, but on the wrong side of the street. "I'm like, 'Our bus stop was back there; you need to turn around,'" she said. "I was scared."
Instead of turning around, parents claim, the operator just kept on driving. Priscilla's father, Daniel Colon, and other concerned parents met with the school principal on Tuesday, where they were informed some of their children were unruly after they realized their bus was heading in the wrong direction. "I guess some of the kids got scared, they got nervous, they started raising their voices," he said.
Jaret said the children's behavior does not excuse the bus operator's actions. "They pulled a video," said Jaret, "and it was a newer bus, and it had really good audio, but the driver had a different story than the kids did. Regardless, you were the adult in that situation. You need to say, 'No, you need to have a seat. I'm going to call somebody,' and not open that door."
The school principal told parents audio and surveillance video from inside the bus shows the children telling the driver to drop them off at the BP station. "Either way, he was in the wrong," said Jaret.
Vogel said she worries the driver could behave similarly in the future. "I'm nervous knowing that the driver could do it again, and I honestly don't want to take the bus anymore because it's pretty scary," she said.
The principal informed parents the driver has been reassigned, but there are no indications that he will be reprimanded. "He's been taken off of this route," Colon said. "[The principal] didn't say if he was suspended or nothing like that."
The driver told investigators that he asked the students to remain on the bus while he finished his route and returned to their stop. He added that the children did not follow directions and instead demanded to be let off at the BP station.
The Broward School Board Transportation Department were still examining audio and video surveillance footage from inside the bus on Tuesday as they continue their investigation.
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