CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — A school bus driver and attendant are being hailed for their vigilance and decisive actions when they helped thwart a man who allegedly exposed himself to at least two children.
Bus driver Gwendolyn Brinson and attendant Kathy Ritter, who work for Broward County Public Schools, were driving their route in Coral Springs on April 30 around 4 p.m. when they noticed something that didn’t seem right to them. A girl whom Brinson and Ritter usually saw walking 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. Meanwhile, Brinson yelled at the man, who reportedly said that he needed directions.
The commotion attracted the attention of a nearby resident, who came out of his house to see what was happening. As the man left the scene, the resident got into his car, followed the man’s truck and got its tag number, which he relayed to police.
As the man was leaving the neighborhood, he allegedly tried to lure two other children to his truck, but they ran away.
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 before the incident that the bus driver and attendant witnessed.
For their efforts, Brinson and Ritter were recognized by Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie at a school board meeting on May 19. Runcie gave each of them a framed letter and a bouquet of flowers.
The school bus duo was also interviewed for an on-air report by CBS Miami.
Rick Rothberg, a terminal manager for the Broward transportation department, told SBF that the department nominated Brinson and Ritter for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Bus Operator of the Year award, which is given in conjunction with Florida Missing Children’s Day in September.
Rothberg said that Brinson and Ritter’s vigilance is representative of “the quality of our staff and how much they care about kids.”
“The thing that sticks out foremost is that they pay attention to such a routine thing as a child walking home — a child who’s not on their bus,” Rothberg said. “They had enough intuition to stop and think that this doesn’t look right, then to start a commotion … [and] to get the kid away from the suspect.”
The school bus driver and attendant have been somewhat taken aback by all of the attention they’ve received for their actions.
“They did it as part of the routine of their day,” Rothberg said. “They're surprised but appreciative of all the thank-you’s and recognition they’re getting.”