News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, November 14, 2013
First Student bus driver uses duct tape to quiet students, is relieved of duty

by Anne Berleant

Principal Cathy Lewis said she was shocked when two Surry Elementary School students approached her on the morning of November 6. They told her that they weren’t making “that much noise” on the bus and “shouldn’t have gotten the duct tape.”

The duct tape the students referred to came from their First Student bus driver, who kept it on hand for children whom she judged as too noisy. The children would walk to the front of the bus and get the tape, which was patterned in the “Hello Kitty” style, and then put it over their mouths, Lewis said in a recent phone call.

“They thought it was a game.”

Lewis immediately called First Student to request a replacement and investigation. She rode the bus that afternoon route, on the advice of Superintendent Mark Hurvitt, when First Student couldn’t find a replacement on such short notice.

By the next morning First Student had sent a temporary driver, soon followed by a permanent replacement.

Lewis said it wasn’t clear how often, how long or under what circumstances the duct tape was used.

It was enough, she said, that “there was duct tape involved.”

She added that the driver was not mean and that “there was no intent to hurt the children. [The driver] just used very poor judgment.”

The duct tape issue came to light one week after the driver pulled over to the road side on the afternoon of October 31 to quiet students down. Lewis said she received calls at the school from parents whose children were dropped off late.

Lewis declined to name the driver because she was not a school employee. The driver began driving in Surry this school year, she said, but was not a new employee of First Student. The First Student office in Orland referred questions to the national media office; they did not return a call from The Packet by press time.