A one-sided penny war erupted Monday on a school bus when at least one student began throwing copper coins at the driver.
The driver, who remains unidentified, stopped the bus on the side of Houston Mesa Road, just off Highway 87 and reportedly refused to move until the offender confessed. It never happened.
“He was mad because nobody would ’fess up,” said mom Christine Rehm, whose 15-year-old son sat trapped on the bus and had a resulting asthma attack.
Students began calling parents on cell phones to pick them up.
“They sat there for almost an hour,” Rehm said. “When I called the bus barn, they made it sound like no big deal. To keep all those kids on the bus in that heat, yeah there was a problem.”
The police even responded. Gila County Sheriff Lt. Tim Scott said an officer arrived at the bus and found pennies lying on the floor, although none of the students would reveal the throwers. Police will not seek charges, Scott said.
Rehm and the school district disagree about how long students sat on the bus. Rehm said her son was still on the bus at 4:30 p.m. although school ends at 3:25 p.m.
Superintendent Casey O’Brien said the bus stayed still for about a half an hour.
“The bus driver acted appropriately and most importantly, in the interest of student safety,” O’Brien wrote in an e-mail. “To stop the bus, call and wait for assistance was prudent. To have continued driving while being subjected to that type of serious distraction would have placed the children’s safety in jeopardy.”
The district’s policy related to student conduct on school buses states that students must act consistently with “established standards for classroom behavior.”
In the event of misbehavior, a bus driver is to inform the school principal of the misconduct, which can then be related to parents if necessary. However, the policy does not seem to outline how a bus driver should immediately handle disruptions.
Rehm wondered why the driver couldn’t have simply collected the students’ names as they exited the bus to avoid having kids sit in the heat. She had to leave work early to pick up her son from the bus, and wondered what happened to students whose parents could not leave work.
Rehm said she was unhappy with the transportation department’s response to the situation, and wanted the district to review it, which it will.
O’Brien wrote the district will review tapes of the incident and administer “appropriate student discipline” if necessary. “If we find that a driver could have better responded to an incident, then we review procedures and provide guidance to the driver.”