County bus driver suspended

Published 11:58pm Saturday, August 16, 2014

A female Dallas County School bus driver has been suspended without pay after a Facebook video showed her, while driving a school bus, violating traffic laws Monday afternoon in downtown Selma.

Dallas County Superintendent of Education Don Willingham said the bus driver, who he declined to name, was traveling on a substitute bus on Dallas Avenue, going 45 mph in a 30 mph zone. Willingham said her excuse was she was in a hurry to pick up her regular bus from the shop on Water Avenue before it closed at 4:30 p.m.

When she approached the traffic light at the intersection at the corner of Dallas Avenue and Church Street, she didn’t come to a complete stop before making a right on Church Street. According to Willingham, it is illegal for a bus driver to turn right at a red light regardless if they come to a full stop beforehand.

The school bus driver’s nephew, a Keith High School student, was riding the bus at the time of the incident.

“She made a mistake that day and got in a hurry and drove too fast,” Willingham said. “With or without children on the bus, she was driving too fast with a school bus, and that can be a dangerous situation.”

Willingham received a call from a friend Tuesday, informing him that David Blackmon had videotaped and posted a video showing the bus driver speeding and running red lights.

Willingham was initially unable to find the video on Facebook, but he decided to call Dallas County transportation supervisor Allen Shelton to inform him about the incident and request he investigate.

A Montgomery television station, who had received the video, contacted Willingham for an interview. After he received the video from the station, Willingham viewed the video, and spoke with the bus driver about it.

The driver admitted to speeding and running a red light with remorse, but she denied there being any other person on the bus at the time of the incident, according to Willingham.

Willingham believed her, because he had only viewed the video on his phone. Therefore, he wasn’t able to clearly see if anyone, besides the driver, was on the bus at the time.

“I thought maybe it was a jacket laying over the seat, “Willingham said. “I didn’t know. I didn’t have any reason not to believe her, especially at that time, because she wouldn’t still have students on her bus at 4:15 p.m. or so.”

After the initial conversation with the driver post incident, Willingham decided, within an hour of viewing the video, to put her on paid administrative leave.

He conducted an interview with a news station, telling the media the driver’s comments on the matter.

Willingham said a reporter told him there was another person on the bus and showed him a video that he said displayed the other individual more clearly.

Willingham said he was disappointed to learn the driver had not told the complete truth, because it can put a negative image on the entire school district.

“Their children are with us,” Willingham said of the parents and families within the county. “If it looks like we’re not telling the whole truth, it creates a ‘what are they hiding’ kind of feeling. We want to be as honest as we can, and open as we can; and I think we are.”

The driver was called in for a second meeting with Willingham and Shelton Tuesday, where she confessed to lying, Willingham said.

Willingham declined to comment on the record about how long the driver will be on unpaid administrative leave, but said she is required to complete a school bus safety training course as a result of the incident.

“I feel comfortable we handled it as quickly as we did and have moved on,” Willingham said.

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