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News / Clark County News

Vancouver Public Schools bus driver calls for change after attack

She says student hit, kicked, choked her

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter
Published: May 19, 2019, 3:47pm

A Vancouver Public Schools bus driver says she hopes a recent frightening experience will lead to systemic changes in the district.

Jeanette Weaver has been a school bus driver in the west Clark County school district for 18 years. She says on May 9, she was attacked by a student on the special education bus she drives.

In a lengthy Facebook post and subsequent testimony to the school board, Weaver described how an elementary-age student became angry, unbuckled themselves from their seat and ran to the front of the bus.

The student “proceeded to hit, kick, choke, head butt, pull my hair and try to bite me more times than I can count,” Weaver wrote. The student also attacked another student on the bus, she wrote.

“I’ve had trouble sleeping since,” Weaver said in an interview with The Columbian. “I’ve had anxiety like I’ve never had.”

Weaver said she was able to pull the bus over and page dispatch. A principal from a nearby school and two district resource officers (district security) responded to help remove the student from the bus. The student will be driven to and from school by a parent until the district can assign another adult to ride with them, the district said in a prepared statement.

But Weaver, who is also a shop steward for the Service Employees International Union, said the attack points to a larger issue: a lack of support in the district for bus drivers despite ongoing concerns about student behavior.

“This isn’t limited to (special education) buses,” she wrote. “Regular (education) drivers are attacked physically and verbally.”

Union grievance

The union, which represents bus drivers, custodians, nutrition services workers and other district staff, filed a grievance last year asking that the district respond to students’ dangerous behavior on the bus. The grievance has been settled, according to the district, adding additional checks for students who are removed from buses and consulting with special education teams when necessary.

Weaver said the district’s response hasn’t been sufficient. She said the district needs to put paraeducators and monitors on buses where students have behavioral problems.

The district said it’s actively recruiting new bus drivers, with the goal to have enough that each bus can be assigned a second adult.

“VPS is very concerned about what happened to our bus driver,” the district wrote in its statement. “The health and safety of our employees is a high priority. We are grateful that our driver was able to safely pull the bus over and call transportation for help.”

Weaver said she isn’t mad at the student or their family. Plenty of kids have behavioral issues or medical issues, she said. But the district needs to step up its hiring and support of trainees before someone gets seriously injured.

“You think being on a cell phone is a distraction, try driving a 40-foot-bus with 40 to 80 students, anticipating being attacked by one of them,” she said.

SEIU is currently in the middle of bargaining with Vancouver Public Schools over a new contract. Weaver is on the bargaining team.

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Columbian Education Reporter