B'ville school bus driver caught reading text: no criminal charges
Thu, 24 Feb 2011 18:32:56 GMT —
The investigation into a Baldwinsville school bus driver caught looking at text messages while driving with students aboard is not done yet.
Late Tuesday afternoon, B'ville School Superintendent Jeanne Dangle told us she's doing her own investigation. "Today I got the call from the Chief of Police, she tells us. "He shared that their investigation is over. Now that the police investigation is over, I'll start ours."Dangle says she did not want to interfere with the police work. She says she'll be meeting with the Assistant Baldwinsville Superintendents for HR and Management Services, and will also talk to the school attorney to map out next steps. She does plan to meet with the people involved (presumably including the Palmer Elementary School students who alerted their parents about the driver.
The driver, says the Superintendent, is no longer driving, however she is not releasing the name until the investigation is over.
There may be no criminal charges, but everyone we talked with in Baldwinsville on Tuesday afternoon was concerned: one woman said she worries about her two children's safety as they ride the school buses.
Lisa Gugliotto, a former school bus driver, says "Incredible. Just can't do it!"
With all the children on the bus, Lisa says, a driver has too much to watch and cannot be looking at texting or anything else.
We also spoke with representatives of other school districts in the area about their policies. Paul Coulter, at West Genesee, says the driver handbook forbids 'any unnecessary conversation or other activities tending to distract his or her attention.' Coulter says it's spelled out that using a cell phone is prohibited while on the clock (though drivers are allowed to carry them, in case of emergency). He also says electronic devices, including earbuds, cannot be worn or present while drivers are on duty.
The written regulations are reviewed as part of the start-of-school refresher courses for drivers.
Tuesday morning update (by Megan Coleman):
A Baldwinsville bus driver caught reading a text message while driving will not face criminal charges. That is the word from Baldwinsville police in a news release just sent to CNY Central.
We first told you about this story last week on CNYcentral.com. Baldwinsville police say the incident happened last month, and now say the school bus driver is a woman. They say she was reading text messages while driving the bus with students on board. Police say it happened outside the limits of the Village of Baldwinsville, so they consulted with State Police and the District Attorney's Office.
The investigation found that while the actions of the driver were clearly inappropriate, they were not criminal. As you know, texting while driving is illegal in New York State, but it is a secondary offense. Police say the only way they can ticket the driver is if caught committing a "separate infraction, which is not the case here."
So far, the district has not identified the bus driver. She was taken off the job following the incident. Police say the district will be handling any administrative sanctions against the driver. We have calls out to the Baldwinsville School District to find out what punishment the driver will face.
At the time we first reported this story on CNYcentral.com, one viewer was outraged, questioning why police had to investigate whether this was a crime. The reader wrote, "Police are determining if any crime has been committed? Are you serious? If it's illegal to text while driving and you get caught with children in whatever it is you're driving (let alone a school bus FULL of children) then shouldn't that be endangering the welfare of a child. One count for every child on the bus!"
Do you think criminal charges should be filed? Do you think the school district should release the driver's name? What should her punishment be? Leave your thoughts below.
Original story from February 24:
A school bus driver in Baldwinsville has been taken off the job after reports that he or she was text messaging while driving a bus.
Baldwinsville Police have confirmed with CNY Central that they are investigating a case of an alleged incident that took place earlier this month. A Baldwinsville Central School District bus driver, whose name has not been released, is accused of sending and/or receiving text messages while driving elementary school children.
Police say they are determining if any crime was actually committed, but would not give details about the tools being used in the investigation.
Stay with CNY Central for more on this story as it develops.