ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County Board of Education has launched an internal investigation into allegations that a school bus driver’s excessive speed caused a second-grader to suffer a concussion Monday afternoon.
The incident occurred on Grassy Creek Road south of Church Hill as students from McPheeters Bend Elementary School were being brought home after school Monday.
Director of Schools Charlotte Britton told the Times-News Tuesday that during that route a student told the bus driver she was stung by a bee and that she is allergic to bee stings.
The bus garage gave the driver permission to bypass upcoming stops to get the child home as quickly as possible in case medication was required to prevent an allergic reaction.
As it turns out, the child isn’t allergic to bee stings, but Britton said the bus driver didn’t know that until she got the child home.
One of the stops missed was the residence of Amanda Evans, who was waiting for her 7-year-old daughter.
Evans told the Times-News Tuesday the bus passed her home way too fast for conditions on that narrow, winding road.
Grassy Creek Road runs along the northern base of Bays Mountain.
“I was standing outside waiting for the bus to drop her off as always, and the next thing you know here comes the bus doing 50, 55 miles per hour on Grassy Creek Road,” Evans said. “It’s just a one-lane road, and there’s no possible way two normal-size cars can pass without one pulling over and letting the other go by. For a school bus to be going that speed is ridiculous.”
Evans said she and other neighboring parents who were also skipped got in their cars and chased down the bus. When they finally caught up to the bus at the home of the child who was stung by a bee, Evans retrieved her child.
That’s when Evans learned that her daughter had hit her head on the metal frame of a bus window as the bus rounded a sharp curve.
Evans said her daughter had a headache all Monday evening, and it persisted Tuesday when she was called by the school to come pick the girl up. Evans then took her daughter to her doctor and said she was told the girl had suffered a concussion.
Now the girl will miss at least two more days of school. Evans said the doctor told her to keep her daughter away from bright lights and make sure she gets lots of rest.
Evans said she understands that the bus driver thought there was a potential medical emergency, but there’s no excuse for putting other children in danger.
“The issue I have is the rate of speed she was going,” Evans said. “With what just happened in Washington County, I’m freaked out enough about it as it is. But the road that she’s on, and to be going that fast, anything can happen.”
Evans said some disciplinary action should be taken against the driver, and she won’t let her daughter back on the bus while that driver remains on the route. Evans said she is also considering legal action against the school system.
“This is not the first time she’s been reported for flying down this road,” Evans said. “The neighbor who also was following us trying to get her kid off the bus reported her last week.”
Evans added, “I am depending on her (the driver) to safely take my daughter to school and safely bring her home in the evening. I shouldn’t have to worry about her doing 50 miles per hour down a one-lane road.”
The neighbor who made the previous complaint, Melinda Light, has a daughter in the first grade on that bus. Light said she didn’t see the bus pass by Monday, but Light’s mother Felbia Crawford did witness the bus speeding as it passed.
“I was out in my yard waiting for my granddaughter to get off the bus, and she (the bus driver) came across this big hill with a great amount of speed and went past the house,” Crawford told the Times-News Tuesday. “There’s a real sharp curve down there, and I didn’t think she was going to make that curve. I was jumping up and down screaming for Melinda, expecting to hear the bus wreck down the road.”
Crawford added, “These mountain roads are dangerous, and if there had been another car coming there wouldn’t have been any way on God’s Earth they could have missed each other.”
Crawford said her granddaughter hit her head on the window at the sharp curve as well. She said her granddaughter witnessed Evans’ daughter hit her head as well.
Crawford said speed has been an ongoing problem with that driver.
“Those kids are in danger,” Crawford said. “This has not been the first time. We have told them (at the bus garage) to get her to slow down. She’ll come in at 6:30 in the morning and skid her tires to stop to pick my granddaughter up, and I don’t know if she (the child) has time to even sit down before she (the driver) is gone.”
Britton said Transportation Director Sarah Floyd spoke to several people Tuesday gathering facts about the incident. She said the bus driver in question will remain on the job pending the outcome of the investigation.
Britton said she is not aware of previous complaints against that bus driver but admitted the internal investigation is not complete.
“I cannot confirm or deny that (the school bus was speeding),” Britton said. “Safety and security of all of our students is of utmost importance to all of us at Hawkins County Schools. We’re looking into all of the safety precautions to prevent anyone from ever being harmed.
“I’m sure all parents are aware of the incident in Washington County, and of course we are as well, and we’re doing everything possible to ensure the safety of all students.”