EVERETT, Wash. - An Everett elementary school bus driver has been taken off route duties after she refused to allow kids to open windows and one became so ill she fainted.
Bette Olney rode the bus home Friday from Emerson Elementary School like a typical fifth-grader, but earlier this week she was more like a nurse when kids started getting sick; two couldn’t breathe and one passed out.
“I ran to the front of the bus and started freaking out and pouring water on her and stuff and then again another girl couldn’t breathe so I had somebody give me their water bottle and I gave her the water,” Bette told us.
The bus driver wouldn’t allow the kids to crack a window—even a little—twice this week when temperatures topped 80.
“She goes ‘if I have to deal with it you do,’ and she had two fans by her that were on and her wide-open window,” Bette explained.
Bette’s mother Tanya Dowell fought back tears telling us how Bette got off the bus with the sick kids-- a half mile from her own home-- to ensure they got to their homes.
“I was irate,” Tanya said. “No adult should ignore a child who is unconscious, especially when they’re entrusted with the health and safety of our kids.”
When Tanya spoke to the Everett School District they were appalled too.
“There’s no ‘thou shalt not open the window’ rule. There’s a safety guideline which is three to four clicks,” explained spokesperson Mary Waggoner. Each click is a little more than an inch.
Waggoner said the bus driver’s actions were inappropriate and dangerous.
“(Students) are greeted in the morning with a happy face and sent home with a happy face and that’s the kind of experience we expect on all of our buses,” Waggoner explained.
Bus services for the district are contracted through a company called Durham. Durham immediately pulled the driver off route duties.
She was replaced, so Tanya hesitantly allowed Bette and her younger sister back on the bus. She says now Bette is worried what might happen if she’s not on the bus to help in an emergency—a concern far too grown-up for an 11-year-old.
“I’m one of the oldest on the bus so I need to demonstrate for younger kids to do stuff like that too,” Bette told us.
All of Durham's buses for the Everett School District have cameras and Durham has reviewed the footage from this incident. We've asking to see it for ourselves, so we can show it to you.
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