CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — An investigation is underway after parents of Swift Creek Elementary School students say their children were threatened by their bus driver.
According to several parents, their children were on a different bus than normal and had a substitute bus driver on Thursday, Oct. 6.
Lynn Lewis is a parent and has children who attend Chesterfield County Public Schools and take school transportation to and from school. Lewis told 8News that her son arrived home more than an hour late on Thursday evening.
Lewis said she was walking toward the bus on Thursday and noticed that parents were holding their children and looked “concerned.”
According to Lewis, her son ran to her in tears.
“You see all the kids grabbing on to their parents, holding on to them,” Lewis said. “Some of them were crying, shaking, and then all of a sudden, my child comes running down the street, shaking, hyperventilating and crying, which he never does. I started shouting and all of a sudden, that’s when I started hearing from the kids what was going on.”
She said she started to ask the bus driver what happened while his window was rolled down. Lewis said the bus driver sped off past her.
Her son told her that the bus driver cursed at the children and told them to shut up when students told him he was off route. Nearly a dozen other children told their parents that the bus driver had pulled the bus over to the side of the road and threatened to hit the children with a broom.
After hearing their children’s stories, Lewis and other parents called Chesterfield Police.
According to Chesterfield Police, officers responded to the 12800 block of Mill Bluff Drive at 5:45 p.m. on Thursday. When officers arrived, they meet with several parents and their children. They reported that a substitute school bus driver had stopped the bus in the area of Echo Ridge Drive and South Old Hundred Road and made threatening statements to the students on the bus while holding a broom.
Chesterfield Police said no one was injured.
Susanne Shinholster was also waiting for her three children who were on the bus that day. Shinholster said that she received a notification that the bus would be 20 minutes late. However, the bus did not arrive until over an hour after it was normally scheduled to arrive.
“Every kid, one by one, who got off the bus said the exact same thing. These are kids ten years old and younger and the look on their face, there was tears,” Shinholster said.
Another parent told 8News she was waiting at a different bus stop on the corner of Mill Meadow and Forest Mill. She said that her son thought he was going to get kidnapped. Her son told her the bus driver had a broom and told the children to sit down or he was going to break it over their heads.
Lewis said that her child is now scared to get back on the bus.
“This is extremely unacceptable,” Lewis said. “As a parent I am disgusted that something like this could’ve even happened. These children are so shaken up that counseling is probably going to need to be advised at school.”
Several parents told 8News that the principal at Swift Creek Elementary School wrote an email to families affected Friday morning, stating that she was going to meet with each student who was on the bus. She also wrote that she planned to ride the bus home with them to provide comfort.
According to Chesterfield County Public Schools, the school division has been and remains in direct contact with families of the students who ride this bus.
“Parents alerted both the school and transportation department when this occurred and immediate steps were taken. Providing a safe transportation system is a top priority of our school division. The school has shared with families of students who ride the bus that we have support services available for students and families.”Shawn Smith, Chesterfield Schools’ Spokesman
Parents of the students involved are hoping that there is change after the incident.
“We’re going to obviously have substitute drivers in the future,” said Lewis. “These poor drivers are being doubled up on their bus runs and what not.”
As of Oct. 6, there were 63 bus driver vacancies within the school division.
“More or less when you’re hiring drivers, you need to do background checks on them and make sure they’re thorough,” Lewis said.
Shinholster hopes for better communication.
“I am just hoping that there will be better communication on where buses are, who is driving the bus, and if there is an issue that the bus driver is having, that they could reach out to transportation and get help that they need,” Shinsholster said.
According to Chesterfield Police, this is an ongoing investigation. Chesterfield Schools said the employee involved is not driving for the school division pending the outcome of the investigation.