The Investigators: School bus safety

Imagine your child riding home on a school bus when it gets into an accident. Then the bus driver leaves the scene. The Baton Rouge Police Department handled such a situation a few weeks ago.

Dispatcher to Police Officer:

Our complainant is a Spencer Parker. His vehicle is a Silver Camaro. Advising that a female bus driver by the number of 2340 hit his vehicle and left the scene.

Spencer Parker explained he was driving down North Sherwood Forest Dr, where the road meets Choctaw, when he says an East Baton Rouge School Bus was trying to merge into his lane.

"I was riding up the street and the bus came from behind me," Parker said. "She actually started getting over on the side of me and I was hitting the horn and she kept getting over so I started to hit on the brakes but I didn't make it in time. She scraped the tire and the bumper ran across here. The bumper and the muffler of the bus ran across my tire. You see the damage on there and she just kept going."

Parker immediately called 911 and started following the bus while police were dispatched.

Dispatcher to officer:

I did make contact with that bus driver. She's advising that she was going to continue on with her route. 

A Traffic Crash Report (document shown below) identifies the driver as Sondra Nelson. She also called the police but had a different version of the story.

Bus Driver call to Dispatch:

Police Emergency. I got an EBR…they got this guy in his Camaro following me. I'm trying to drive these kids home. I'm on…I'm traveling down Greenwell Springs Road and he's talking about I hit his car but he's driving in the other lane and following behind and versing all kinds of stuff. He's out here but I didn't hit his car.

Parker said he followed Nelson down Sherwood Forest Dr., through a few neighborhoods before she eventually stopped in the 1000 block of Greenwell Springs Road. That's when a Baton Rouge Police Officer showed up.

His report (document shown below) shows that he felt Nelson had operated the bus in a careless manner, but he did not issue her a ticket. Something which upset Parker.

"They didn't give the driver of the bus a ticket even though she hit my car and ran. She didn't follow any of the proper procedures associated with driving the bus and kids on the bus. She was supposed to stop," he said.

When Parker asked the officer why he didn't write her a ticket, he got a vague answer. The Baton Rouge Police Department told 9News citations are issued at the officer's discretion.

9News wanted to know more about Sondra Nelson's time driving her bus, so we asked the East Baton Rouge school system for her personnel and disciplinary records and the guidelines for what a bus driver should do when they are involved in an accident.

Per the guidelines (document shown below), when a school bus driver is involved in an accident, he or she is required to turn off the engine, check for injured students and call police.

"She kept going," said Parker. "She proceeded to drop off every kid on her bus off before she stopped that bus, and there was absolutely nothing done about it."

Internal communication (document shown below) between school board officials show Nelson provided a written statement about the crash to the school board, saying the police officer did give her a ticket.

We reached out to Baton Rouge Police again to confirm this. BRPD could not locate a ticket, nor confirm that one had been issued to Nelson.

The only violation we found on her school board record (document shown below) is where she turned right on red at an intersection where that's not allowed.

"You have something like this where you have people who are putting our kids in danger and nobody is doing anything about it? I think that's a real serious problem," Parker said.

More than getting his vehicle repaired, he said there needs to be more accountability regarding such incidents, especially when children are on board.

"I don't want her driving anybody's kids around, first of all. Secondly, I want some checks and balances on accountability because it seems like nobody at the school board is holding these bus drivers accountable. That's just the bottom line," he explained.

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