Riverview bus incident leads to police investigation

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 12, 2014 

A 6-year-old kindergarten student at Riverview Charter School was assaulted by his bus driver earlier this month after being forced to board against his will, his mother told town of Port Royal Police.

"Visible red marks" 4 to 5 inches long underneath the boy's arms were noted by the town of Port Royal police officer who made a report of the incident the day it occurred. Three to four small red marks around the boy's armpit were also noted by Patrolman Ryan Edwards in his report.

The boy's mother, Tara Johnson, declined to comment Wednesday.

Port Royal Deputy Police Chief Ron Wekenmann said the department's investigation should be completed by Friday. He declined to identify the driver and the name was not mentioned in the report; Riverview officials also declined to provide the driver's name.

However, the day after the alleged assault, Johnson boarded a bus and confronted driver Ada Brown, according to a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office report filed by the driver's employer, Durham Bus Services.

The student told his bus driver Feb. 5 that he was not supposed to ride the bus home that day, but wait for his mother to pick him up at the school instead, according to the Port Royal police report.

When the boy refused to board, a Riverview staff member picked him up and placed him on the bus. Once inside, the student would not sit down, the report said.

The bus driver then allegedly picked up the student underneath his arms, "physically walked him to a seat, and 'threw him' into the seat, causing him to strike his head on the side of the bus," the report reads.

Shortly after the incident, the student was taken off the bus, and his mother arrived, according to the report.

Wekenmann said the police department has reviewed footage from cameras on the bus.

"It shows several very young children on a bus, while one child is refusing to cooperate with school and bus personnel," he said. "The school and bus personnel physically try to get the child to comply."

Wekenmann said the video footage from the bus could not be released because of the young children in the video and rules about protecting their identity.

He also declined to offer further details.

The day after the incident, the boy's mother saw the driver, identified as Brown, on the route, a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office report says. Johnson entered the bus and confronted Brown, and the two argued for about a minute before Johnson exited, according to the report, which was filed by Durham Bus Services general manager Gary Bradley.

Durham Bus Services -- which also serves the Beaufort County School District -- would not provide the driver's current employment status.

Molly Hart, corporate spokesman for the company, said it is Durham's policy not to discuss individual employment decisions. She could not comment on Durham's policy regarding drivers with criminal complaints against them.

State regulations do not allow parents to board school buses, according to Bradley. He said the company does not want to press charges but wanted to document the incident.

Riverview director Alison Thomas said the school is cooperating with the police investigation. However, she would not comment on the student's after-school schedule or say if Johnson had sent a note to school with her son informing staff she intended to pick him up that day.

Thomas said she has seen some of the surveillance camera footage but would not describe what she saw.

She said the school puts the safety of its students first and will decide how to address the incidents after the investigation is completed.

"On the heels of whatever the investigation concludes, we will evaluate and could decide to do things differently at Riverview in the future," Thomas said. "But not knowing what the conclusion will be, it is hard to say how the school might respond if we don't agree with the findings of the investigation."

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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