Fired bus driver files claim against Woodland schools

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

 

A former Woodland School District bus driver fired in October for refusing to follow a district policy on where she picked up a student took a step toward fighting her termination Friday.

Jolleen Washburn, a nine-year bus driving veteran, served the district with a tort claim, a precursor to a civil suit. The claim notifies the school district that Washburn plans to sue for wrongful termination.

The district fired Washburn after she refused to pick up a kindergartner from in front of his grandmother's house. She said the location was too close to an intersection she thought was unsafe. Instead, she picked up the child several yards away.

In the claim, Washburn's attorney, Greg Ferguson, writes that the district conducted "no meaningful investigation" into whether the bus stop was safe. He accuses district administrators of spreading untruths and conspiring to fire Washburn quickly.

Following Washburn's termination in October, school district administrators said she had repeatedly failed to follow the school district's policies.

They argued that Washburn's alternative location — near the side of Lewis River Road near a ditch — was less safe than the spot administrators had chosen, which was near a driveway.

Representatives from the school district were not immediately available for comment.

Washburn is seeking reinstatement to her prior bus driver position and route with back pay.