Driver suspended after kicking school kids off bus
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Staff from Telopea Park School and the ACT Education Directorate have gone to ground over the decision yesterday by an ACTION driver to kick more than 60 kids off the 485 school service.
According to a Territory and Municipal Services spokesman, the driver stopped the bus on a street in Red Hill yesterday afternoon when students from the school continued to ring the bus bell.
He kicked all 63 students on board off the bus, then called the ACTION communications centre to make them aware of the situation.
When the driver asked students to get back on, only 10 students reboarded the bus. The driver then continued up the road to where many of the students had walked, and implored them to get back on board, but only 5 more students complied, leaving up to 48 students by the side of the road.
"It became apparent to him that the students, that he wasn't going to get anymore back on the bus. So he continued his run," the TAMS spokesman said. When ACTION realised what happened, a vehicle was sent out to look for the students, but none were found.
The driver, who has driven for ACTION for about three years and about whom no previous complaints have been made, will not drive this afternoon’s service. Instead, a senior supervisor will speak to the students before driving them home.
A receptionist at Telopea Park School said no one from the school would speak to the media. All calls were being handled by the Education Directorate. A spokesman for the directorate, and indeed a spokesman for the Education Minister Chris Bourke, would give no indication what, if any, disciplinary action had been taken, or support offered to the students.
The directorate spokesman said only that ACTION was handling the inquiry and the school and the directorate were cooperating fully with that.
A spokesman for TAMS said the inquiry would probably take about two weeks. He said most of the students on the bus were from the high school at Telopea Park and some were from its primary school.
ACTION policy for drivers having difficulty with passengers was to park the bus and to call ACTION’s communications room which would dispatch a transport officer. Clearly that had not happened in this case.
Immediately after the incident, the bus driver was called in from his shift, and an investigation launched.
The TAMS spokesman said ACTION contacted both the school and police to report the incident and check for any reports of missing children. No reports had been received.
The spokesman confirmed that ACTION received messages last night from 12 parents or students associated with the incident, and were able to contact at least 3 of the complainants.
On-board footage of the event has been reviewed, and a full investigation will take place.
The bus driver has been suspended from undertaking any more school runs while the investigation is ongoing.
A spokesman from the Transport Workers Union told ABC radio this morning that the driver would be supported by the union, but that the union didn't condone leaving children on the side of the road.
“As a general rule, we always say to our members that if you think there’s an issue on the bus, there’s an issue on the bus," the spokesman said.
“[But] leaving kids on the side of the road is not encouraged, is not a good idea."