Bus Driver Accused of Forcing Students to Stand on Bus - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/26/05

Bus Driver Accused of Forcing Students to Stand on Bus

There are more troubles for school bus company Laidlaw. Today, another driver is on the hot seat. Friday afternoon, some very angry parents say a bus driver put their kids in a dangerous situation, forcing them to stand on the school bus all the way home.

Driving a school bus full of little kids can be tough, but Leitner Helfrich of Savannah says what happened to her daughter Brianna aboard bus 319 on the ride from Pulaski Elementary to her home at Hunter Army Airfield crossed the line.

"She was crouched down in her seat to see the mirror above the bus driver, to see the kids behind her, and [the bus driver] told her, 'If you want to see so bad, get up, put your arms over your head and stay that way,'" Helfrich told us.

This happened while the bus was moving.

Helfrich does admit her daughter isn't perfect. "By no means is she a saint. She's a very rambunctious, talkative eight-year-old. Lots of energy."

But when Brianna got off the bus in tears, her mom confronted the bus driver. "He said, 'Oh don't worry, she's not the only one I made do it,'" Helfrich told us. "Like that makes it okay."

According to Helfrich, a 6-year-old boy and 9-year-old boy were also forced to stand on the bus. She says she called Laidlaw Friday.

They say they took care of the problem immediately. "We had a driver, who is also a mechanic, he could not maintain control of the students," Laidlaw's Rufus Smith told us.

Smith says the driver should have pulled over to a safe place to calm the students down, not have them stand on a moving bus. "That's not how we do business here. We immediately removed the driver and suspended him from his duties and is now under investigation."

"I'm talking about he needs to be let go of his job," said Helfrich.

She says this isn't the first bus problem. "It's a continuous cycle. You name it we've had it."

But she hopes it's the last. "Laidlaw should have their contract pulled."

Helfrich, long with the other parents, will be meeting with a lawyer tomorrow.

Laidlaw says the company will not tolerate misconduct and the driver in question will most likely be fired.

Savannah-Chatham Board of Education acting superintendent George Bowen is aware of the incident, and school officials say it's an example of the ongoing problems they want Laidlaw to address. The company has until June to fix the problems or it could lose its contract.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com

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