Bus play leads to arrest

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 4, 2003

Children playing on a Butler County bus last week landed bus driver Leroy Johnson Sr. at the police station where he was placed under arrest on a misdemeanor charge of harassment.

Police department spokesman Capt. Danny Campbell said that Johnson was notified on the warrant for his arrest, and he turned himself in at the station Sept. 22 at 3:10 p.m., and was released on a $500 bond.

Johnson, 58, a 15-year veteran of the Butler County School Bus Transportation Dept., said the whole thing was a misunderstanding.

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&uot;The bus had stopped, and the children were getting off the bus,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;[The child in question] started falling or someone pushed him – I don’t know which – so I reached out to save him.&uot;

The bus driver said the child would have fallen down the bus stairs and out of the bus, possibly seriously hurting himself if he hadn’t grabbed him.

&uot;It frightened me, so I shook him and told him to not to play on the bus,&uot; Johnson said. &uot;I told him to sit down and be quiet. That’s all I said, and I’ve been arrested.&uot;

Assistant Superintendent Allin Whittle said that the complaint that was filed with the superintendent’s office was that Johnson had cursed at the child during the incident.

&uot;We investigated and found that none of it was true,&uot; Whittle said. &uot;The audiotape from the bus monitoring system showed that Johnson had not cursed.&uot;

Whittle said that his office is still investigating. In the meanwhile, Johnson has been moved from that route and temporarily placed on another.

&uot;That’s our standard procedure for these types of things,&uot; he said. &uot;Once our investigation is completed, and the charges against him have been resolved, we will follow the board’s procedures and make a decision about what else is necessary at that time.&uot;

Whittle confirmed that Johnson had received no other similar complaints against him during his tenure with the school system.

&uot;We get reports from people calling in to complain about the buses quite often,&uot; he said. &uot;Usually they are complaints about the noise on the buses. Anytime we get a complaint, we call in the bus driver and talk to him about it. If we continue to get complaints, the driver is reprimanded, and a letter is placed in his file.&uot;

Whittle said that he regrets the incident has resulted in an arrest.

&uot;We have very good bus drivers,&uot; he said. &uot;We get good reviews on our audits, and we don’t get many negative referrals. But this is like any occupation, there is always room for improvement.&uot;

A side note to this saga is the turmoil the incident has caused for Jessie McWilliams, the displaced driver who has been swapped to take over Johnson’s route.

McWilliams also is a longtime bus driver, having driven his route for the past seven years.

&uot;I’m not happy that I have had to be moved because of what happened,&uot; McWilliams said. &uot;I love the kids on my route and have been with them a long time. I’m not happy about all this, but I will do whatever is best for the children and the school system. I just hope it can be resolved so I can get my route back.&uot;

&uot;We have buses that operate as units,&uot; Whittle said. &uot;We have transportation supervisors that have to make judgment calls to do what’s in the best interest of our children. If someone has to be moved, whether we like it or not, it’s what’s best for the children that matters. We would never put someone in a situation that we didn’t think they could handle. If they have good rapport with children, then we know they can do this. We aren’t running a popularity contest with something like this, we just need them to help us out.&uot;