Bus drivers behaving badly in Southwest Florida

LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Fist fights, texting while driving, vulgar language…this is just some of the behavior happening on school buses in Lee County.  But it's not coming from the kids.

We did a little digging to find out what bus drivers are getting in trouble for in Southwest Florida.  And what we found surprised some parents.

“Yeah, that's inappropriate.”

“That's not good.”

“It's dangerous.”

In Lee County, there were 12 reports of bad behavior filed during the first semester of school this year.  One features a driver whose name is redacted, with initials “N.M.”

We don't know who she is, only that this employee was driving bus 1535 in Lee County.  The school district went through three days of bus surveillance video to see why her route was taking longer than it should.

The surveillance video found the driver "took the bus home" on one day in particular, "for almost an hour".  The report also found her "vaping an e-cig on the bus", "cursing in front of students", "frequent texting while driving with student on board", and "talking on the phone while driving" "for extended periods".

This driver was also accused of transporting her own children without permission.

In fact, the report says she brought the bus with her son on it to the "shop area of the (bus) compound to have some work or repair performed".  She told him to hide while the mechanics did their repairs, saying "i need you to stay in your seat laying down", adding "if I have to get on this bus because you are moving I'm going to whoop your (beep).”

When the work was done, she's seen leaving with her son still hiding on the bus.  Back on the phone, she’s saying to the person on the other end "now I'm trying to turn this bus and it's tighter than a (beep) in the butt."

This driver no longer works for the lee county school district.

Another Lee County bus driver was written up, accused of "contributing to the provocation of an ESE (special needs) student".

It all started when the student was caught eating chips on the bus.  The bus driver is recorded on bus surveillance video saying "put it away before I take it…and I'll eat it."

The report says the bus driver and assistant went on to poke fun at the student, saying put the chips away.  "You stink…smell like corn chips and farts".

Another student even joined in, "laughing and holding her nose".

The ESE student at this point, "clearly agitated", was asked by the bus assistant, "why are you not on your medication?"

The student eventually "appeared to pinch" the driver's assistant and also "stood up and lunged toward (the bus assistant's) seat".

Another student reportedly "slapped him", "his glasses knocked of his face".

That's when the driver said "call the police" while "laughing and smiling" at the boy.
The driver and assistant "restrained the student, face-down in a bus seat.  Both employees appeared to have most or all of their weight on top of the student" when he started crying.  They said "you should be ashamed of yourself, look at all of these police.  You assaulted me, you assaulter her".

"Lee County Sheriff's Office deputies arrived at the bus" and talked to the driver before leaving, the boy still on the bus.

He and all of the other students on board were eventually dropped off at their stops, but not before the driver was seen "removing her phone from her pocket" and  "viewing the screen while driving with one hand".

This driver is still on the job, driving school buses in Lee County.

Several of the other incidents involved drivers getting violent.

Two drivers "outside the driver's lounge" at the Transportation Department fought over something that was said earlier in the day.

Four other Lee County drivers were written up for taking part in a fight in a Walmart parking lot.  At least two of them were related; a mother and daughter.

The report says the brawl happened while they were all in school district uniforms, fighting over a reported Facebook post.  Four of the six involved in fights are still on the job.

All this is leaving one parent to share a simple message.  “Those guys are supposed to be role models…kids now-a-days will act up too, but you gotta be a better example.”

So what does it take for a driver to get fired or pulled off a bus for good? In Lee County, we’re told "a recommendation for termination can be submitted after 5 minor infractions".  Basically it's a case by case scenario based on the seriousness of the infraction.

As for texting while driving, bus drivers in Lee County aren't automatically fired as some parents hoped.  The first time a driver is caught, it's a 3-day suspension.

We also requested any reports of bus drivers behaving badly for the first semester of the school year in charlotte county.  It was a pretty quick read; only two reports.

In one, a driver was caught speeding: 44mph in a 30mph zone.  No kids were on the bus, and she was reprimanded.

The other report indicated a driver released a student at the wrong bus stop on two separate occasions.  She was suspended for five days.

We're still waiting to get Collier County's reports of bus driver discipline.  As soon as we do, we'll let you know what we find.

The full report on Lee County school bus drivers, CLICK HERE.

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