Kenton County superintendent throws blame on students for bus ‘hostage’ situation

Parents say their children were screamed at, physically harmed and neglected. Not so, according to the district.
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 6:46 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 24, 2023 at 11:20 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FORT WRIGHT, Ky. (WXIX) - A district investigation into Tuesday’s incident where parents say a bus driver held students “hostage” on a school bus has found almost every allegation to be false.

Kenton County Superintendent Henry Webb sent a letter Friday to parents of the Fort Wright Elementary students who were on the bus.

The letter, citing bus video, student interviews and staff interviews, refutes each allegation of wrongdoing on the part of the school staff while substantiating just one claim—that a parent threatened to harm the bus driver.

“Evidence clearly supports that staff were threatened and inappropriate language was utilized during this unfortunate event,” Webb said, “and the district is addressing these situations through board policies and procedures and by reporting the inappropriate actions to the local authorities.”

Webb’s letter leaves room for improvement only in how the district might have better communicated to parents as the incident unfolded.

He notes he is unable to comment on student discipline or personnel actions.

FOX19 reported on the story hours after it happened. Parents told us the bus driver kept their kids on the bus for an hour after school on Tuesday. They said the bus driver told their children they would never see their parents again. One parent said her son was pushed off the bus, causing him to scrape his knee and triggering an asthma attack.

Webb, in his letter Friday, provides a list of allegations that overlap and add to what the parents told us. They say, according to Webb, the bus driver held the students “hostage;” used profanity toward students; was screaming and acting erratically; physically harmed students; and did not care for a student that was having an asthma/panic attack as a result of the actions on the bus.

What happened, according to Webb, is multiple students “did not follow basic safety rules to ensure the safety of all bus riders.” The bus driver and monitor, Webb says, repeatedly tried to correct the “poor” behavior by speaking to the students over the intercom and pulling the bus over. Eventually, the bus driver decided to head back to the school, where a school staff member addressed the students. He says that’s standard practice in the district.

During this detour, students reached out to their parents. One parent told us it sounded like a “panic” over the phone. Webb acknowledges the calls proved upsetting.

Webb says the bus arrived only 30 minutes late, not an hour.

He says there was no evidence the staff used inappropriate language, touched any student, pushed any student or screamed. Webb acknowledges a staff member had to raise their voice but says it was only due to the noise level on the bus. He does not specifically refute the claim that the bus driver told students they would never see their parents again but says neither the bus driver nor the monitor acted erratically.

On the asthma/panic attack, Webb says a staff member attended to the student and remained with them after the student reported they were having a hard time breathing.

Webb says it was concern this student’s wellbeing that prompted the staff members to keep the other students in place after the bus had stopped, seeking to get the ailing student off first.

The superintendent notes a final allegation from parents: That the bus staff turned off the district’s “My Bus Buddie” tracking system that allows parents to know the location of the bus.

“The evidence is clear that this system was not turned off by staff on the bus,” Webb said, “and the system does not allow staff on the bus to turn the system off.”

Webb says a message was sent to parents through the system that the route was delayed. He acknowledges the district could have gone above and beyond to allay parents’ concerns, including extra messages by phone, text or email. That avowed shortcoming drew Webb’s only apology in the letter.

Webb goes on to say students could face a loss of bus-riding privileges for violations of safety rules. He adds the incident has prompted the district to review its practice of returning to school when student behavior warrants it.

See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Please click here to report it and include the headline of the story in your email.

Do you have a photo or video of a breaking news story? Send it to us here with a brief description.