JOHNSTON, Iowa — A school bus driver here was arrested for allegedly assaulting a special-needs passenger on his bus — an incident that was captured in cell phone videos.

According to the Johnston Police Department, school bus driver Robert Scarbrough, 61, stopped his bus just after noon on Thursday when a 15-year-old special-needs student failed to follow his instructions about the student’s assigned seat.

Some accounts of the incident indicated that the student also apparently threw something at the driver.

Police said that Scarbrough approached the student, and the student “directed an inflammatory comment towards the bus driver.” At that point, Scarbrough allegedly grabbed the student and pulled him out of his seat.

“A brief struggle ensued, at which time the driver struck the student in the head and pushed him down onto the floor of the bus,” according to a Johnston Police Department press release.

Scarbrough then returned to his seat and drove to the next bus stop. There, other passengers on the bus saw a Polk County Sheriff’s vehicle parked nearby. When Scarbrough opened the bus door, several of the students ran off of the bus to the deputy and told him what had happened.

Some of the school bus passengers recorded the incident in cell phone videos. Police officials who arrived at the scene reviewed the video footage and interviewed Scarbrough, the 15-year-old special-needs student and other passengers who witnessed the incident.

Scarbrough was arrested at the scene. He was taken to Polk County Jail on charges of assault causing injury and child endangerment.

Johnston Community School District officials said that Scarbrough has been placed on administrative leave.

“In the video, it appears as though the driver made a series of poor choices regarding how to handle the student’s behavior,” district officials said in a statement.

The student was treated in an ambulance but wasn’t transported for further medical care. The other passengers were taken home on a different bus. (The students, from Johnston Middle School, were on their way home around noon because they had an early dismissal that day.)

Johnston Middle School counseling staff members were available on Friday and will be again next week for students who might want to discuss the incident.

“We recognize students who were on the bus or saw the video may be unsettled by what they witnessed,” district officials said.

Meanwhile, some of the students who were on the bus shared their experience by posting their cell phone videos on social media, as seen below. (Warning: Clip contains some profanity.)

About the author
Thomas McMahon

Thomas McMahon

Executive Editor

Thomas had covered the pupil transportation industry with School Bus Fleet since 2002. When he's not writing articles about yellow buses, he enjoys running long distances and making a joyful noise with his guitar.

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