Bullying on the bus: Their children in tears; Parents want answers

By Amy Cherry 12:10pm, April 1, 2013 - Updated 12:12pm, April 1, 2013
When you send your kids off to school, you have a reasonable expectation, they'll come home safely, and despite recent laws passed in Delaware to combat bullying, it's still happening on the school bus.

WDEL's Amy Cherry tells us the story of two parents, whose children's five minute ride to school is the worst part of their day.

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It's a parent's nightmare.

"How many children have to die before new laws are made prohibiting bullying?"

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Melissa Berry and another woman, she calls her sister, though they're really just close friends, moved to the Rosegate community last year. The neighborhood is known to be a rough one.

Their kids, two little girls, both age 10, ride the bus to school every day to Castle Hill Elementary, and they're being bullied.

One of the mothers tells me how it all started...

"There were condoms on an elementary school bus. The children were throwing the condoms and yelling about banging on the bus. I had my daughter come home in tears, not understanding what any of this meant. I had to have a premature conversation with my daughter regarding condoms."

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She admits...

"They're kids. Kids are going to be kids. They're elementary school kids."

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But the problem, she says, lies within the bus driver, a man, she knows only as Mr. Lawrence.

"The school knew nothing. The bus driver did not do his job in telling the school that any of this happened, and the bus driver did nothing while this was going on."

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Mr. Lawrence works for the Knotts Bus Company, which is contracted by the Colonial School District and has been bussing Colonial kids for decades. Mr. Lawrence has been driving for at least 10 years, and both Colonial and the bus company tell me they've never received any complaints.

But the situation only got worse, and eventually, it became racial, says one of the mothers.

"My daughter was called a white chick that eats bugs and a bucktoothed beaver. The bus driver laughed and again, did nothing."

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After several complaints...

"We didn't feel as though the bus driver had control of his bus."

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Both women's kids were placed directly behind the driver.

"Where apparently the children were acting out on the bus, not my child, standing and yelling at this point, on the bus. The bus driver to get them to stop, slammed on the brakes. He did this on school property, sending my daughter's and my niece's faces smacking into the seat in front of them."

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The next step was to get a camera on the bus, which did happen.

"There was another child who reached over, my daughter and my niece share a seat, she reached over the aisle, stuck her hand in my daughter's pocket. When my daughter asked her to et her hand out of her pocket, she told her to 'Shut the 'f' up.' Again, nobody did anything to help my child. She then moved over, squished next to her cousin, and sat there in tears."

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So naturally, the mother wanted to see that footage.

"They said, 'Oh well, there's no camera on the bus. We can't make the driver drive the bus with the camera every single day. We just watched him for a couple days.' There should have been a camera; there should have been proof, and the kid should've been suspended. There is not to be touching or bullying of any kind."

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A few days later, the two little girls were standing at the bus stop and were being made fun of, and she begged the boy to stop.

"The child then told my daughter that he could do whatever he wanted, and she should shut up, or he's going to punch her in the face. My daughter did not shut up, she said, 'Leave us alone,' and the child punched her in the back."

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She complained and was shocked to see the boy, the very next day, at the bus stop.

"I am handicapped. I cannot drive my child to school. I cannot walk my child to the bus stop every day, and I shouldn't have to."

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That prompted the girls to get their bus stop changed to directly in front of their house. The driver would beep the horn and the girls would come out, but that didn't stop the bully, who just came to their bus stop instead.

"We told the child he needed to remove himself from that bus stop, that is only for those two and go to the other bus stop and leave our children alone. He then told my sister to 'F off, I'll do whatever I want.'"

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County Police were called several times, and said they're trying to resolve this, but if any bullying happens on the bus, it's State Police's jurisdiction. State Police tell WDEL County Police are working to resolve the matter.

"We've been told over and over and over each time that this happens, 'Call 911, call 911, call 911.' OK, how many times do we have to call 911 before somebody cares?"

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But Colonial School District does care. Hear how the situation was handled in the school and by the bus company in Part 2 of bullying on the bus Tuesday on WDEL's Delaware News at Noon.

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