Volusia County Schools bus driver Mary Bennett (left) and attendant Jackie Murphy helped two special-needs students on their route after Bennett discovered the students’ babysitter on the floor of their house, calling for help.
DELAND, Fla. — On the morning of Sept. 9, a Volusia County Schools bus on route 439 pulled up to a house to pick up two special-needs students.
School bus driver Mary Bennett noticed one of the special-needs students standing in the front doorway of her house, making no attempt to walk to the bus.
As Mary assisted her attendant, Jackie Murphy, with the loading of the wheelchair, Mary repeatedly asked the little girl to come to the school bus, but she would not move. Mary felt something was wrong, and as she walked up to the little girl, she noticed she had been crying. With the front door of the house left ajar, Mary heard a faint cry for help inside.
Mary looked inside and observed the babysitter of these special-needs students on the floor, crying out for help. Mary yelled to Jackie to call 911. Mary could not get close to the babysitter, as her dog of 14 years was lying next to her, protecting her.
Mary and Jackie took both students to safety on board the school bus, as they were very upset and crying. Jackie calmed the two special-needs students, and Mary notified dispatch and waited there until emergency response arrived.
Also on board the bus was a non-verbal special-needs student whom Mary had never heard speak before. Mary then heard this student say, “Ms. Bennett is OK; emergency coming.” It brought tears to Mary’s eyes to know how much this student observed the situation, and to hear him speak out was amazing.
“This was a learning experience for me,” Mary said. “It is very important to observe and know your surroundings and students. I want to thank my attendant for helping keep the students on board the bus calm and thank Ms. Libby, our dispatcher, for a wonderful job.”
Don’t think you’re just an attendant or a bus driver — you are the eyes and ears of Volusia County, and we help our community in more ways than the public realizes. You are a critical part of neighborhood watch.
Nicole Miller is an area operations manager for Volusia County Schools.