On Nov. 7, 2001, school bus driver Lynda Clanton’s life was changed forever. While driving her Fulton County (Ga.) School District bus on its afternoon route, Clanton began having problems with a 14-year-old student who had been on her bus only seven days. When she told him to sit down and be quiet, he attacked her savagely, punching, kicking and scratching her before tearing into her face with his teeth. The attack forced Clanton to have a number of surgeries and resulted in 17 stitches, hearing loss, dizziness, permanent nerve and ear damage and other facial and bodily injuries. A media frenzy surrounded the story and subsequent court case, in which the youth was sentenced last month to two to five years in a secured juvenile facility. Clanton, now four months removed from the incident, discussed her disturbing experience with SBF Plus.
SBF Plus: Now that most of this is in the past, how do you feel about the whole situation?
Clanton: Well, I still have a long way to go with two surgeries coming up next month. But I think the whole incident has made me more aware of my surroundings. I haven’t been back on a school bus yet, but when I do I’m going to be more aware of the children and things going on around me.
SBF Plus: What kind of lingering medical effects do you have?
Clanton: I still have numbness in my face and scars. I also have an ear problem and my balance is off. I can’t drive a bus or even a lawn mower because they’re afraid I’ll fall off.
SBF Plus: How do you feel toward the school district?
Clanton: My lawyer is pursuing some way to get me some compensation for this. It was a devastating thing that happened, and the boy’s record is lengthy. I should have been informed that he had a violent history. When I first met him, he was polite, well dressed and very smart. What I didn’t know was that he’s been charged eight different times for attacking people since 1995. I feel like I should have been notified about his past, especially since this is a Majority to Minority program where students are on the bus a minimum of two hours a day.
SBF Plus: Were you satisfied with the boy’s sentencing?
Clanton: I wanted him to go to a mental facility, but the judge decided his history is so bad that she wanted him in a correctional facility. I’m happy he is going to get treatment though. I believe there is good in everybody, and I want to believe that kids are still the way they were when I was growing up.
SBF Plus: Have any changes been made by the district since this incident?
Clanton: I don’t think any changes have been made. After it happened, drivers were on the radio immediately when there was a problem and they needed help. But other drivers have been telling me lately that the way it used to be is starting to creep back. I wrote and gave a speech in front of the Georgia Association of Educators on February 23 to address this issue.