GREENCASTLE, Ind. (WISH) — A seventh-grader at South Putnam Middle/High School said she was “held hostage” for nearly an hour by a school bus driver.
Alivia Hill, 12, was instructed to “sit down” when she attempted to get off the bus Tuesday afternoon at her regular stop, she said.
The driver held out his arm and physically blocked her from exiting the bus as a form of punishment, she claimed.
“The bus driver was mad that I wouldn’t keep the children in their seats,” Alivia told News 8. “He refused to let me or two other students off the bus because of that.”
Alivia is not a bus monitor, teacher’s aide or designated helper, she said.
She stayed on the bus while other students got off at their stop on Main Street. When she attempted to exit at subsequent stops near relatives’ homes, the bus driver informed her she needed a note to get off at an alternate location and continued driving, she said.
Her mother, Betsy Hill, told News 8 she was “panic-stricken” when she couldn’t locate Alivia after school.
“I usually meet her at the bus stop at 3:45,” Betsy said. “Two other kids got off (on Tuesday afternoon). I start wondering, ‘Did I tell her she could stay after school? Did I miss something here?’”
She called the school office at 4:05 p.m. but only reached an answering machine, she said.
Betsy spent more than half an hour calling and texting her daughter’s friends before deciding to “hunt her down.” As she walked outside, the school bus pulled up a second time.
“Alivia gets off and she’s crying,” Betsy told News 8. “After she told me what happened, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I was so mad.”
She and her daughter described the incident as “traumatic” and “unnecessary.”
Betsy drove through town searching for the bus driver and confronted him Tuesday evening.
“I asked him what the problem was,” she said. “And he said, ‘The kids on the bus are mean to me. Alivia wouldn’t help me. And when she wouldn’t help me, she yelled at me.’ He said, ‘So I wouldn’t let her off the bus.’”
Alivia denied yelling at the bus driver Thursday in an interview with News 8.
Administrators declined to confirm the seventh-grader’s claims and said they were unable to provide details about the alleged incident, citing privacy concerns.
“South Putnam has investigated a situation involving a student riding a school bus, but due to privacy laws protecting all students, we are not permitted to discuss this matter,” Bruce Bernhardt, the South Putnam Community School superintendent, said Thursday in an emailed statement to News 8. “The driver in this situation has met with transportation officials and appropriate actions have been taken.”
The driver did not appear to be terminated or suspended, according to students; he was still driving Alivia’s school bus Thursday afternoon.
“I want the school (district officials) to take this seriously,” her mother said. “What if that was your child who was confined to a bus? They can’t tell me they wouldn’t be upset.”
The bus driver and his immediate supervisors were not available for comment.