Video — as well as global positioning technology — debunks claims made by some parents apparently based on what their children told them that a Manteca Unified school bus driver was driving erratically last week.
At least one parent called KCRA-TV in Sacramento and said:
*The bus was 30 minutes late and they were concerned about the safety of their children.
*That one student contended the driver made a U-turn in the middle of an intersection, drove in circles, drove over a curb, and generally was driving erratically.
*The driver was dismissive of a student that said she didn’t feel good by allegedly telling the child, “'Does it look like I care? You're not even supposed to be talking to me.”
The story was picked up by Associated Press and carried in some newspapers including the Stockton Record.
But video and GPS offers no evidence that supports the assertion that the driver drove the bus erratically.
And despite the fact that the bus was extremely late in arriving at its scheduled stops, the technical data the district collects to assure student safety indicated the bus may have only been on the road for a total of 10 minutes.
The Manteca Unified School District is still investigating other alleged aspects of the incident that occurred last week on an elementary school bus that has led to the driver being placed on paid administrative leave.
According to district officials, the bus was scheduled to depart New Haven Elementary School when the driver reached out to dispatch and requested that a principal or vice principal come onto the bus to help control the behavior of the students telling the dispatcher they were unable to operate the bus safely with the way that students were behaving at the time.
Because the principal was not available to come onto the bus, the driver waited – and as the bus sat in front of New Haven Elementary School, parents at the subsequent stops it was scheduled to make became increasingly concerned about the safety of their children.
Only after an extended period of time did the driver actually leave the school site. By that time a second bus had already been dispatched from the school district’s transportation facility. The driver was notified by dispatch to return to the school so that the students could be taken home on a different bus.
In a statement that was provided to local media outlets – which initially reported the information based almost solely on the accounts of the parents – the district outlined some of the steps of the incident and reaffirmed its position to maintaining student safety at all times.
“Student safety is our number one priority. Yesterday, during a route from school to home, an operator communicated student behavior was interfering with school bus safety,” the statement read. “The operator was asked by the Director of Transportation to locate a safe stopping point in order to allow for the transfer of students safely to another bus.
“The operator involved in this incident has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation of the incident. Manteca Unified School District will be following up with all bus operators to reaffirm correct procedures to follow for the safety of all students and staff.”
The incident unfortunately escalated when parents who were upset that the bus hadn’t arrived drove to New Haven to pick up their students and confronted the bus driver – who, according to video surveillance, still had a student onboard that was going to be dropped off on a different route when the confrontation took place.
To protect the student from the profane language that was heard in a review of the tapes, according to a district official, the driver closed the door of the bus and waited for the altercation to dissipate before opening the door back up to the bus and allowing the student to transfer to the bus that had arrived to take over the route.
As part of its commitment to student safety, every Manteca Unified bus is equipped with a GPS monitoring tag that allows for the bus route to be tracked in real-time as well as video surveillance that operates automatically once the bus starts moving and transmits its feed to be stored off-site. The bus operators are also in constant contact with a dispatcher which provides a live audio feed that can recorded and reviewed at a later date.
The district is currently looking into the utilization of a program that would notify parents in real-time about the location of their child’s bus so that miscommunications like the one that transpired last week don’t happen.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.