Irritated Driver Of School Bus Strands Children In Pr. George's

By Nick Anderson and Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, May 14, 2005

About three dozen elementary students were kicked off a Prince George's County school bus and left at a street corner short of their destination Thursday by a driver who was apparently fed up with an on-board disturbance, a schools spokesman said yesterday.

John White said the bus was carrying 48 students from Melwood Elementary -- an Upper Marlboro school for kindergartners through sixth-graders -- after it let out at 1:55 p.m. The driver, he said, was a substitute on the route but a regular bus operator for the school system.

The driver dropped off 11 students at their usual destinations at the first two stops, in a route heading northeast from the school along Woodyard Road. Then, for reasons still unclear, the driver took umbrage at a disturbance on the bus and ordered the remaining riders to get out at Brooklee and Cheryl drives in a residential neighborhood three miles from the school.

"Unfortunately," White said, "they were stranded there." None was hurt.

White said neighborhood residents watched over the children and alerted school officials. Many of the children had been on their way to a day-care center at Antioch Baptist Church, about two miles away on Old Marlboro Pike.

The children were eventually picked up by parents and another school bus that was dispatched in response to the incident. It was unclear how long the students had to wait, but White said the second bus was sent rapidly from a nearby lot.

Chanda Adkisson, the mother of two boys who were on the bus, said she was panicked when her children called from a home near where they were let off. The children were still in tears, Adkisson said, when she arrived at the day-care center where they were waiting.

Adkisson, a loan administrator at Fort Myer, said she is waiting for answers from the school district about the bus driver's future.

"I want to make sure he doesn't drive for anybody else," she said. "Even if the children were a little out of control, you have to be careful how you deal with people's children."

Adkisson said her sons told her that the bus driver became angry after the students would not tell him who among them had used foul language.

White said that the driver, who had worked for the school system for two years, quit after meeting with officials. The spokesman would not identify the driver, citing confidentiality of personnel matters.

Suella Woodard, a special education teacher at Melwood, first heard about the bus incident on television last night.

Woodard said she had some sympathy for the driver because it is difficult to be a substitute -- teacher or driver -- in the face of unruly students.

But, she said, "That wasn't the way to handle that. You can't just leave them stranded. You can't do that," she said. "Parents are at work, and they are expecting their children to be left at the stop where they are supposed to be."

The school's principal, Carrington Smith, could not be reached late yesterday to comment. County PTA officials said they did not have any information, and efforts to contact a Melwood Elementary parent group were unsuccessful.

Staff writer Martin Weil contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company