Substitute bus driver fired after inappropriate contact with students reported

Principal of Pickett Elementary School sends letter to parents about incident

By Corley Peel - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A substitute bus driver was fired after a Jacksonville elementary student reported that the driver had inappropriate contact with students, according to school officials.

On Wednesday, parents of Pickett Elementary School students received a letter from the principal about the incident that occurred Tuesday.

Principal Carlene Smith wrote that the substitute bus driver was on the route normally driven by bus No. 548.

The principal said that the substitute bus driver was terminated after the incident was reported. The school district did not release the substitute driver's name, but News4Jax learned Thursday that the person drove for the company, First Student.

The principal wrote that measures were being taken to make sure students are safe.

"Please know that your children's safety is our top priority," Smith said, adding that parents with questions or concerns can call her at 904-693-7555.

Mary Ann Partridge said she was shocked when her daughter told her that one of her friends at Pickett Elementary reported the substitute driver had inappropriate contact with her and other students.

"I'm glad my kid doesn't ride the bus. I'm thankful for that," Partridge said. "It's crazy."

Parent Joseph Seligman said he believes there should stricter screenings for bus drivers. 

"It shouldn't be going on," he said. "Bus drivers shouldn't be putting his or her hands on another child."

According to First Student’s policies, the company thoroughly screens and follows a carefully crafted interview and selection process. First Student also claims to have the most extensive background check process in the industry. 

Student Jaelyn Ryder said the bus rider did the right thing by speaking up.

“She told everyone what happened, and she was surprised and shocked," Jaelyn said. 

Jaelyn also said teachers have talked to students about the incident.

“That it should never happen again and that it was bad," Jaelyn said.

Duval County Public Schools, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the Department of Children and Family Services are investigating the incident. The three agencies could not be reached for a response on the case.

The manager of First Student's Jacksonville office did not wish to comment and referred News4Jax to the company's media hotline. As of Thursday night, News4Jax's call to the media hotline had not been returned.

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