Port Royal Police: No crime committed in Riverview bus incident

sbowman@beaufortgazette.com

February 18, 2014 

STAFF ILLUSTRATION

No crime was committed by a bus driver accused of assaulting a Riverview Charter School kindergarten student earlier this month, the Port Royal Police Department has determined.

The department on Friday concluded its investigation of a Feb. 5 incident, in which the bus driver picked the student up, carried him, and placed him in a seat, Deputy Chief of Police Ron Wekenmann said Tuesday.

During its investigation, the police determined that the driver, Ada Brown, "did not intentionally cause harm to (the student). She was trying to control a child who was very out of control and causing an unsafe situation on the school bus," according to the supplemental report.

Attempts to contact Brown on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The mother of the 6-year-old student, Tara Johnson, said she would not comment without speaking to her attorney. J. Olin McDougall of McDougall Law Firm in Beaufort said neither he nor Johnson would comment on the incident, the police's findings, or whether they will file a lawsuit.

According to the police report filed by Johnson, the student told Brown on Feb. 5 that he was not supposed to ride the bus home that day.

Riverview director Alison Thomas told police that the boy normally attends the after-school program on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. However, Thomas said he had gotten in trouble at the program the previous day and therefore was not allowed to attend on the Wednesday the incident occurred.

A school staff member escorted the student onto the bus, and he was screaming and yelling loudly, according to a Port Royal police report.

Brown tried several times to get the student to sit down, first by grabbing his belt and pulling him to a seat, the report said. When the student ran back to the front of the bus, the driver then picked the student up under the child's arms and carried him to a seat at the back of the bus.

The responding police officer found "visible red marks" about 4 to 5 inches long under the boy's arms, according to the report.

The same staff member who placed the student on the bus then removed the student before the bus left for its route because the student continued to scream, the report said.

Durham Bus Services protocol for handling unruly or disruptive children requires the bus driver to report the situation to the Durham office, company general manager Gary Bradley said. The only time it is appropriate for a driver to touch a student is during an extreme emergency -- for example, when life or property is in danger -- Bradley said during police interviews.

According to the report, Bradley said that Brown should not have touched the student and should have contacted the office. However, Bradley added that the school should not have put the student on the bus.

Durham would not say if Brown has been switched to another route or if she is still a company employee. Spokeswoman Molly Hart said the company "does not comment on pending legal matters."

Thomas said she could not comment on the police's findings because she has not yet reviewed them. She will summarize the school's response and give recommendations for handling similar incidents in the future at a meeting of the school's board Thursday.

Thomas said she would not provide that information before presenting it to the board.

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

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