Bus driver leaves 2 kids to walk home

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Two brothers, ages 12 and 8, were let off the bus on Monday morning when one got sick and left to walk home. The house, roughly two blocks from the bus, could not be seen from the bus, and the driver had no idea if parents were still home. And the older boy, who was not sick, was told he could catch back up with the bus at another stop.

By Brad Bowman

Two Shelby County Public School students were released from a bus several blocks from their home and left to walk, without the driver knowing if anyone was at the house.

Deven, 12, and Nathan Armstrong, 8, were let off the bus about 6:40 Monday morning when Nathan became sick. According to Deven Armstrong, bus driver Garnetta Stivers asked the boys for their father, Larry Armstrong’s, phone number. When they didn’t have it, Stivers told the boys to go home.

“I was outraged. I told the guy at the bus garage what if my kids had been kidnapped, hit by a car or what if I hadn’t been home they would’ve been sitting there all day outside the house waiting on me to get home from work,” Armstrong said. “If my son was vomiting, what if he choked and couldn’t breathe? My older son doesn’t know CPR. He would’ve died.”

Deven Armstrong said they tried to contact his father, but he must not have heard the phone.

“My brother started throwing up and went to the front of the bus. She [Stivers] opened the door for him, and he was throwing up at the door,” Deven Armstrong said. “She tried to call my phone — I had that number memorized, but not my dad’s — and I guess I had it on vibrate ‘cause my dad didn’t hear it. I walked my brother back to the house and she said I could meet her at my friend’s house, but that was pretty far away.”

Larry Armstrong said his son’s didn’t have the phone number because it’s programmed into their phone, which he does not allow at school.

“She asked him for my phone number, but it’s programmed on his phone, and I don’t let him take it to school,” Armstrong said. “They [the school district] have a list with our phone numbers on it. I don’t understand why they didn’t call the garage and get it. I trust her with my kids’ lives. She should’ve never put them off of the bus.”

Kerry Whitehouse, Shelby County Public Schools director of operations, said Transportation Coordinator George Blakeman has talked with Stivers and the father.

“George has talked with the father and he’s [the father] onboard with us,” Whitehouse said. “Some of these houses are back to back on these streets. It wasn’t a desirable action. According to the driver, the child couldn’t stop vomiting and didn’t want to stay on the bus. The desired action would’ve been her calling into the garage to contact the parent.”

However, the house is not in view of most of Cherry Lane.

“It may not look far, but you can’t see that part of the road from here,” Larry Armstrong said from where Deven and Nathan were dropped off the bus. “I don’t know if talking to her [Stivers] is enough. What if this was their kids — how would they feel? It’s just the principle of it. Anything could’ve happened to them.”

But Armstrong did put his children back on the bus Tuesday.

“He [Blakeman] told me they had a talk with her and that it wouldn’t happen again. I’m not thrilled about it just being a talk. Honestly, I don’t want someone to get fired and lose their job, but their [his children’s] lives were in her hands,” Armstrong said. “They were two blocks over on Cherry Lane [Armstrong lives on Blackwell Road]. We live on a dead end road and behind us is an empty field.”

Stivers was contacted, but did not comment on the incident.