After an argument turned physical last month on a Lee County school bus, deputies say a 15-year-old student pulled a gun on a classmate and threatened to shoot him.
Witnesses said several students helped wrestle the gun away from Quadrayle Davis, and the victim’s sister helped pull him off the bus and get home safely. But an arrest report makes no mention of an intervention by the bus driver.
State law not only permits but directs bus drivers to take matters into their own hands if needed. Local school administrators say drivers are trained on how to prevent or stop violence — especially in the case of weapons on board.
For a driver not to make any sort of intervention would be unusual, but it’s likely the driver transporting Cypress Lake High School football players last month wasn’t aware there was a firearm on the bus, said Patrick Hayhurst, the district’s director of security.
“As far as I’m aware, in almost every case, they do react,” he said. “(The driver) knew there was screaming and yelling ... but he didn’t know what was going on.”
State law mandates that drivers have control of their student passengers at all times, even instructing them in extreme cases to go as far as using reasonable force to prevent themselves or students from being harmed. In the case of a fight, drivers are directed to ask students to stop, pull over the bus and call dispatch to contact parents, according to a Florida Department of Education procedures manual.
If they’re unable to gain control, drivers are told to call dispatch for help, get other students off the bus and intervene if the situation is life-threatening. For any situation in which a weapon is brought on board, bus drivers are directed to call 911 and follow the directions of law enforcement.
Some school districts instruct drivers to contact dispatch even if any situation seems out of the ordinary, as is the case in Collier County, which received national attention after a fatal bus stop stabbing two years ago.
In January 2011, a substitute bus driver was on the route when Palmetto Ridge High School students Dylan Nuno and Jorge Saavedra exited and began fighting. Saavedra fatally stabbed Nuno but later was found justified through the state’s “stand your ground” law.
The bus driver had a clean disciplinary record and was not suspended from driving routes as a result of the situation, officials said.
Drivers and bus attendants in Collier County are trained on violence prevention, controlling bullying and managing crisis situations, said David Ogilvie, the school district’s director of transportation.
“Our drivers are instructed and trained that they are to contact dispatch immediately when an emergency or accident arises, including any incident occurring on the bus,” he said.
Hayhurst, the director of security in Lee County, said February’s case remains under both an internal and a Sheriff’s Office investigation. Deputies learned of the gun threat only after the victim arrived home and told his parents, who then called for help, according to reports.
“I’m not saying it’s not serious,” Hayhurst said. But “we didn’t know until later that it was going on.”
Reports also said the bus’ onboard camera system was not functioning at the time of the scuffle, meaning officials must piece together their investigation through witness accounts. Hayhurst said it was possible the bus driver’s view of the gun was obstructed by other passengers.
“When kids stand up, obviously the kids in front are blocking the view,” he said. “That could have been the problem.”
Hayhurst said he did not know if the bus driver had been disciplined, referring questions to transportation director Robert Morgan. However, several attempts to reach Morgan throughout the week were unsuccessful.