Chris and Cara Blanton and their son Adrian sat down yesterday with WLDS-WEAI News and explained that he came home after school last Friday with marks on his face, chin and neck. They say the driver inflicted the scratches after losing his temper with Adrian and other supposedly rowdy students.
Adrian and his father say the bus driver got increasingly agitated over the course of the trip.
“On the first stop, he sat up and waited for a little bit, and he waited for everybody to quiet down. And then he got back in his seat and drove off,” explains Adrian. “And then the second stop, he got out of his seat and went up to me and picked me up with one hand when I was laying down. And he let go, and just yelled at me to go up to [the front seat],” he continues.
“He doesn’t ask him to get up and move,” Adrian’s father adds. “He just reaches over the seat, grabs a hold of him, yanks him up in the air and tells him to go to the front.”
Adrian is in his first year of school at Murrayville after having attended Franklin Elementary, which closed last year. Living close to the school, his parents say he had never ridden the bus before this school year.
Pictures of Adrian were taken after the alleged incident and his parents called Murrayville-Woodson and spoke with principal Sarah Raynor the same day.
The family was apparently asked if alternate transportation could be set up in the event that the removal of the bus driver couldn’t be confirmed. Chris Blanton says the plan is to continue to drive Adrian to school until there’s a different bus driver and action against the original driver is taken.
“We asked them if anything was going to be done. They said that it was not our right to know whether he would be driving the bus the next day or not, whether we could put our son back on the bus or not,” says Chris.
“So therefore, we gotta take our son back and forth in school and take time off of work until somebody decides that putting somebody’s hands on my son- when he wasn’t doing hardly anything wrong- [is wrong]. He was speaking, laying down on the seat every now and then, but that was it. Other kids were jumping back forth from seat to seat, hooping and hollering and going on, throwing things and driving the guy nuts, but for whatever reason, he comes and grabs a hold of my son,” Blanton continues.
Chris says there was never any notification given to him or his wife prior to the alleged incident that Adrian had been misbehaving on the bus.
Cara says Adrian came home numerous times stating the bus driver was singling him out for his behavior. At first, she thought her son might have been blowing things out of proportion.
That was before she and her husband were shown the bus video of the alleged incident on Monday.
“I was shaking, with my hands to my face, within fifteen seconds of watching that video and crying, just because I was so nervous watching him and his behavior long before he ever got to Adrian,” says Cara.
“Before he gets out of his seat, he says something like, ‘You want to mock me? I’ll show you. I’m tired of your mouth.’ We observed this man cussing and swearing repeatedly at the children, threatening them, threatening to leave them in a cornfield and have them find their own way to school, hollering at them, ‘I gotta deal with you four-letter-word kids.’”
In the video, the Blantons say the bus driver actually drove off of the scheduled route to stop the bus and physically engage with their son.
Chris adds that the bus driver handled the other students much differently.
“Afterwards, he tells another boy at the back of the bus, ‘I’m not moving this bus until you move up here to this seat.’ Why wasn’t the same restraint given to my son,” questions Blanton.
While they admit that Adrian- along with the other students they say were acting worse- could learn better behavior, Cara disagrees with what they said was District 117 Director of Human Resources and Public Relations Dana Kinley’s assertion that that Adrian had provoked the bus driver.
“But she wouldn’t describe what he did. She just said he provoked those actions,” she says.
Originally, the Blantons say they were directed to District 117 interim superintendent Barbara Suelter after calling the school. Cara says Suelter strongly suggested to let the district handle the matter and not get law enforcement involved.
“‘Please don’t call the police,’ that’s all I heard from everybody, and I said, ‘You know what? I’m not ok with this. It doesn’t feel right,’ and that’s why I called the police,” she says. “And I’m really glad I did, because obviously the school is not doing anything about it.”
The South Jacksonville Police Department took the initial report before the Blantons saw the video. They say the officer who took down information may have actually seen the bus pulled over when the alleged incident occurred.
District 117 is a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse to the Department of Children and Family Services, and after they didn’t report the incident, Cara Blanton says she contacted DCFS on Tuesday.
She says the driver violated employee conduct standards as set by the school district.
“If there is such a problem on the bus that he can’t control these kids, that he’s got to stop it two or three times on the way to school and two or three times on the way home every day, he should have asked for help. He should have followed his protocol,” says Cara.
Before we spoke to the Blantons, Kinley said yesterday that the district was made aware of the complaint on Wednesday and has completed its investigation. She says appropriate action was taken and that no bus driver has been terminated from the district.
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the complaint. Chief Deputy Mike Carmody says the department is speaking with the state’s attorney and reviewing whether charges will be filed against the bus driver.
Cara Blanton provided the driver’s name to WLDS-WEAI News, saying she was contacted by family members who work at the school district’s bus garage. We have decided not to publish his name unless an arrest is made.
The Blantons say they have contacted an attorney.
District 117 has responded to the abuse accusation. Read it here.