TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — School bus driver Gwendolyn Brinson and attendant Kathy Ritter were given a statewide award on Monday for their actions to protect a student from a man accused of lewd behavior earlier this year.
Brinson and Ritter, who work for Broward County Public Schools, won the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Bus Operator of the Year honor, which was one of about a dozen awards presented at the 2015 Florida Missing Children’s Day ceremony on Monday. Gov. Rick Scott, First Lady Ann Scott and Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen were among the dignitaries who spoke at the event.
During their afternoon school bus run on April 30, Brinson and Ritter noticed that a girl who usually walked home by herself was talking to a man in a truck. According to an account of the incident that district officials provided to SBF, the driver and attendant sensed danger, and Brinson stopped the bus, opened her window and began to yell “stranger danger” to the girl.
Ritter said that she saw the man exposing himself, and she got off of the bus and told the girl to run home and call her parents. As the man left the scene, a nearby resident got into his car, followed the man’s truck and got its tag number, which he relayed to police.
The man was later arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious exhibition on a victim under the age of 16. He allegedly also exposed himself in front of another girl a week earlier.
Brinson and Ritter were recognized by Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie at a school board meeting on May 19. Also, Rick Rothberg, a terminal manager for the Broward transportation department, told SBF in May that the department had nominated the duo for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Bus Operator of the Year award.
In the nomination letter, district transportation officials described Brinson and Ritter’s efforts like so: “Demonstrating awesome teamwork, [and] amazing awareness of their surroundings, these co-nominees are nominated for preventing the possible abduction of a child and removing a child from imminent danger.”