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Parents petition E.P. School Board to fire bus driver

EAGLE POINT — Parents of about 35 children who ride a Trail-area school bus route have signed a petition asking the Eagle Point School District to permanently remove the route's bus driver because of discipline and safety concerns.

The petition, submitted to the district Tuesday, was sparked by an incident Oct. 30 in which some of the children on Bus Route 20

(see correction below) accused the driver of swatting a 6-year-old boy who refused to be seated.

Other parents said they have removed their children from the bus because they're worried about the driver's erratic driving.

"The problem I have regardless of whether children have been swatted or not is her driving is very unsafe," said parent Twyla Williamson.

School district officials said they have investigated the allegations and taken appropriate action. They said they couldn't disclose what measures they took because of laws that prohibit them from discussing personnel matters.

"The facts we found were not the same as the allegation," said Michael Remick, Eagle Point schools human resources director.

Parents said the driver was absent for two weeks after the incident but now is back on the route, prompting them to start the petition. A few of them also plan to express their concerns at the Eagle Point School Board meeting at 6:30 tonight said Williamson.

"I don't see how she can still be driving the bus," said Cori Teitzel, mother of a 12th-grade son and first-grade daughter. "These are kids. They're supposed to be safe on the bus."

Teitzel said she now drives her daughter to Elk Trail Elementary, while her son continues to ride the bus to Eagle Point High School.

According to a statement by the 10-year-old sister of the 6-year-old boy whom the driver allegedly struck, the driver grabbed the boy by the arm and "hit him on the thigh four to five times."

Julie McGonagle, foster mother of the 6-year-old boy, provided the Mail Tribune with a copy of the statement, which had been documented by Eagle Point schools counselor Barbara Reed.

The driver could not be reached Tuesday for a response.

"There are two sides of every story," Remick said. "I can't say what we discovered or the facts in this particular case. The parent has a perspective she's offered. We got to the facts and proceeded with what we thought was an appropriate response."

McGonagle said her foster son has some behavior problems related to his past abuse, and she now drives him to school.

Route 20 is about 25 miles long, passes through Trail and traverses part of Highway 227, parents said. Some of the children ride the bus for up to an hour.

The driver frequently accelerates and then slams on the brakes, parents said. They said their children also have told them that she frequently becomes distracted when she's yelling at them.

"The kids come home saying, 'She almost hit a car,' " Teitzel said.

Williamson said her 13-year-old son told her he had hit his head in the bus on three occasions when the driver slammed on her brakes. Both of her children continue to ride the bus because she can't take them to school. Since the driver's absence, her children have had fewer complaints about her driving, Williamson said.

Still, Williamson said, the district's response to parents' concerns has been insufficient.

Parents said they also are unhappy with the way the driver handles disciplinary matters, including shouting and whistling loudly into the intercom.

Parent Leah Ferrell said she has removed her son from the bus until the driver is replaced.

"I don't feel it's safe with her as a driver, and I don't think the kids should be treated like this," Ferrell said.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.

Correction: The original story included an incorrect route number. This version has been corrected.