Several incidents involving school buses have made headlines in the last few weeks. School Bus Fleet has a roundup of some of the top stories this month including:
- Teen killed after hit by New Orleans school bus.
- A Canadian bus driver killed in a crash.
- Students injuried in school bus crash in South Carolina.
- Student duct taped in Pennsylvania; school bus driver charged.
- Virginia bus monitor accused of assaulting autistic student.
- Student removed from school bus by people in masks in New York.
- Wisconsin school bus struck by gunfire.
Teen Killed After Being Hit by New Orleans School Bus
A 17-year-old student was struck and killed by a school bus on Saturday, June 3, in a park.
Fox 8 New Orleans reported that police said the teen “walked in front of the bus and was struck.” The teen was taken for emergency treatment but was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The National Foundation of Temple Youth Southern identified the teen as Belle Adelman-Cannon. The teen would have been entering senior year this fall.
WDSU reported that the student's school opened on June 5 with counselors available.
Police classified the death as a fatal accident and the bus driver was not cited or arrested. The accident remains under investigation.
Canadian School Bus Driver Killed in Crash
A school bus driver and police officer were killed in a crash in Woodstock, Ontario, on May 29. Police told The London Free Press that the school bus and unmarked police vehicle collided at a rural intersection at around 7:00 a.m. School bus driver David James Stewart and Det.-Const. Steven Tourangeau were identified as the victims.
Neither of them had additional occupants in their vehicles.
Tourangeau was on duty when the crash occurred.
Authorities did not release details on the cause of the crash; police are investigating.
County officials told The London Free Press that the intersection where the crash happened has been the site of several serious crashes in the past.
More than a Dozen Students Injured in South Carolina School Bus Crash
Eighteen people were sent to the hospital after a school bus collided with a tanker truck on May 25 in Lexington, South Carolina.
Lexington County School District One reported that the bus was carrying 43 students and one driver when it collided with the tanker during its afternoon route at an intersection.
The injured included 17 children and one adult. A hospital spokesperson told the Associated Press that all of the patients had been evaluated and released by the next day. Additionally, the district reported that its administrators went to the hospital to check on the students and their families.
The bus passengers were from local middle and high schools.
Authorities did not release details on the cause of the crash, though video from a nearby business shows the bus appear to pull out in front of the tanker after stopping at a stop sign. You can watch the video below. WARNING: some viewers may find this video disturbing.
The school district released a statement after the crash, saying it was cooperating with the South Carolina Highway Patrol in its investigation.
The statement went on to say that the district's human resources and transportation personnel are conducting their own investigation following federal law and district procedures. The driver of the bus will remain on administrative leave pending the outcomes of the investigations.
Pennsylvania School Bus Driver Charged After Student Duct Taped
The Delaware County (Pennsylvania) District Attorney announced charges were filed against 54-year-old school bus driver Juliet Pratt after she allegedly used duct tape to restrain a 10-year-old student on a bus she was driving on March 8, 2023.
On May 30, the prosecutor's office announced Pratt was charged with unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, endangering the welfare of a child, and assault.
“Bus drivers are entrusted with enormous responsibility every time they get behind the wheel. In addition to being safe drivers, we also expect them to treat the children in their care with dignity and respect," said District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer. "Using duct tape on a child who was already fully restrained in the vehicle’s harness was not only inexcusable, it was also dangerous. Had an accident occurred, this child would have been unable to free himself from the tape. There is simply no excuse for this conduct, which is why these charges have been filed."
The Upper Darby Police Department was dispatched to Hillcrest Elementary School in Drexel Hill on March 8 for the report of a 10-year-old assaulted by a bus driver. Video surveillance revealed that the suspect had restrained a student with duct tape around his ankles and his chest.
The student was seated on the bus in the district-supplied safety harness. After arriving at the school, the defendant used a seat belt cutter to remove the tape from the child.
According to the DA's office, at no time was the student observed trying to get out of his seat or otherwise move around the bus.
The Delco Daily Times reported that detectives spoke with the district's pupil transportation director, who said drivers may not restrain students with duct tape at any time, and that doing so presents a safety issue in the case of an emergency.
Pratt was held on all three charges following a preliminary hearing May 18. Two other charges for unlawful restraint and simple assault were dismissed.
Pratt's attorney said she claimed that the child’s legs were not restrained and that he was kicking the interior side of the bus. The taping was allegedly done in an attempt to keep the boy from injuring himself or others.
A school district spokesperson told School Bus Fleet that Pratt is not driving buses at this time.
Online court records showed she was free on a $2,500 cash bail and is scheduled for a formal arraignment on June 21.
Virginia Bus Monitor Accused of Assaulting Autistic Student, Allowing Him off Bus Half-Naked
A student's family filed a $15 million lawsuit against a Newport News, Virginia, school bus monitor on the student's behalf. The Daily Press reported that in September 2022, the 9-year-old boy — who is autistic and cannot communicate verbally — walked off the bus naked from the waist down.
The child's parent found that the student was struck in the face by a bus monitor on the way home from the Center for Autism at Kiln Creek Elementary School, according to the lawsuit.
After being slapped, the boy pulled off his pants and diaper as the run continued, with the bus monitor telling him twice that she "wished she could whip his tail," the lawsuit said.
Neither the bus monitor nor driver tried to put the boy’s pants or diaper back on, the complaint said. When they got to the boy’s stop, they didn’t ask his father to come onto the bus to help. Instead, they simply allowed the child off the bus.
The complaint also said the bus monitor, Patti Washington, 62, referred to the 9-year-old as “a monkey” and “an animal” during a bus-ride conversation she had with the bus driver the day before.
While it was not said to the boy directly, the lawsuit stated it was within the boy’s earshot at the front of the bus. The bus monitor is Black, as is the boy.
The attorney for the family said the lawsuit's assertions are backed by video footage from both days on the school bus, as well as a letter from the school division to the bus monitor.
Howerver, the lawsuit said that despite clear violations of school board policy, the school division only gave the bus monitor and driver warnings rather than terminating them; they are no longer serving the autistic school, but are working other school bus routes.
Washington, bus driver Deborah Richardson, and the Newport News School Board are named as defendants in the case.
In addition to the lawsuit, the child's parent went to a Newport News magistrate last fall to swear out a criminal warrant against Washington for assault and battery.
Court records showed that during a January 2023 hearing, Washington was found not guilty of the misdemeanor charge.
A spokeswoman for the school division declined to comment on the pending lawsuit to the Daily Press, but wrote in an email: “The school division remains committed to ensuring the well-being and care of all students.”
In addition to the lawsuit and charge, the complaint states that Washington also was seen on surveillance footage “grabbing another student by the strap of his neck and jerking him down into his seat as he boarded the bus.”
The lawsuit contends that the boy has suffered pain and suffering, mental anguish, humiliation, and other injuries as a result of the school system’s actions. Besides the $15 million in compensatory damages, the suit also asks for punitive damages, back interest, a reimbursement for the cost of the litigation, and “other relief as justice may require.”
New York School District Pursuing Charges After Student Removed from School Bus by People in Masks
The Newburgh Enlarged City School District in New York plans to press charges, after three people wearing masks boarded a school bus and removed a girl on June 5. The Hudson Valley Post obtained a school district letter to parents stating the bus was was delayed because of the incident.
Law enforcement was immediately notified by the bus company.
It's unclear why the girl was removed, and surveillance video showed she was not forcibly taken or abducted.
The teen was found unharmed, according to the letter to parents.
Police are investigating the incident and a district spokesperson said the district is pursuing charges.
Wisconsin School Bus Struck by Gunfire
A Milwaukee, Wisc., school bus carrying two students was struck by gunfire on June 6.
Police told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that no one was injured in the incident, which happened during the afternoon route.
The source of the gunfire is unclear. Authorities asked anyone with information on the incident to reach out to them.