Bullying on the Bus: Mothers to sue Knotts Bus Company

By Amy Cherry 11:59am, April 3, 2013
The two 10-year-old Castle Hill elementary students, who were being bullied on the school bus, may now have a new bus, but their parents' fight isn't over.

WDEL's Amy Cherry has more in Part 3 of "Bullying on the Bus."

Click here to listen

Being a bus driver is tough work. Just ask Paul Knotts, who's been in the business for more than 60 years.

His family business, Knotts Bus Company, has been contracted by the Colonial School District for decades.

Knotts wouldn't talk with me on tape unless he had approval from the Colonial School District. Colonial granted that permission with Superintendent Dorothy Linn telling WDEL she trusts Mr. Knotts extensively. After getting the approval, Knotts didn't return my calls, but we spoke in-depth before this.

He said, "Everybody forgets that we're driving a bus. They take a position 'Why don't you do something?' You know the conditions we drive under."

That's exactly the position the mothers of two 10-year-old girls took after their students were repeatedly bullied, and Knotts says being on bully patrol isnt' the bus driver's job.

"I remind them once in a while, our label is school bus driver not school bus disciplinarian," he said.

But one mother disagrees.

"There is absolutely no reason that a driver should not stand up to a child doing something wrong and at least attempt to handle the situation," says the mother, who wishes to remain anonymous due to feared retribution against her young daughter.

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Knotts says the driver at issue, Mr. Lawrence, has a clean driving record and has never had any complaints over his 10-year bus driving career with the company.

"He has a great record, he's a very likable person. He's very well-liked by the children. There few times that he's not here for whatever reason, when one of us do the run, it's asked where's he at," said Knotts.

Knotts agrees with Colonial School District that this is a neighborhood problem. He says this is a racial thing, given the Berries and the other family are the only white families in what he calls a "solid black neighborhood."

"What do you mean a neighborhood issue? Because they're bad kids because of where we live?" says the outraged mother.

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"We can't take on the burdens of the neighborhood," said Knotts.

He recommended the girls be picked up by a special needs bus. Just one day after our conversation, the girls had a new bus, not the special needs bus that Knotts had recommended, but it was a much nicer, bully-free ride.

But Melissa Berry and her sister tell WDEL this isn't over.

"I shouldn't have had to call you (WDEL) for them to care," she says.

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"That feels better, but we are going to proceed with actually suing the bus company, Knotts. We are going to take it that far," says Berry.

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When asked why they were still filing a lawsuit even though they got their kids a better, safer bus, the mother was surprised I would even ask.

"You own a company, and you drive a bus. You should be held accountable for the safety of the children, and Mr. and Mrs. Knotts both stated to us that it wasn't not their problem. You cannot own a business and say that the safety of the people involved are not your problem," says the unidentified mother.

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"Nobody has taken what these mothers are saying lightly. What's really fired this lady up is her daughter was written up, and the bus driver wrote her up," Knotts tells WDEL.

Berry calls the write-up a way for the bus driver to harass her daughter, saying he never bothered to write up the students who were throwing condoms on the bus or the students who touched her child. But she insists the write-up isn't the issue.

"You want to back your bus driver, that's fine, but I'm taking you to court. This is ridiculous. You've harmed two kids. Your bus driver does not care about the safety of the kids. It's apparently OK to put your hands on other kids. We've already proved that one," Berry says.

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Knotts tells WDEL he's aware the mothers are threatening a lawsuit.

This concludes a three-part series on "Bullying on the Bus." If you missed Part 1 of "Bullying on the Bus" click here.

You can catch Part 2 of "Bullying on the Bus," by clicking here

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