MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The community is demanding answers after a school bus driver dropped a group of middle school students off more than four miles from where they were supposed to be, but the bus company said Tuesday that their driver "followed proper protocol."
Treadwell Middle School students say a fed-up driver ditched them after school in a random Binghampton neighborhood.
The driver has been removed while Shelby County Schools investigates.
Alayla Wright was one of those students who ended up miles away from where she was supposed to be Monday afternoon. She says their substitute bus driver didn't know where he was going and then got agitated with how some kids were acting.
She says the driver ultimately forced some of them to leave and threatened them not to tell anyone. Sixteen other students on the bus were taken to the correct stop.
Witness John Grimes said he saw the bus driver drop off several children in front of his house on Nathan Avenue in Binghampton, then drive away. He spoke with a parent of one of the children who came to pick them up and then helped them all get to the Tillman police station.
Grimes said he knew something was wrong when he saw the kids dropped off at the corner.
"There was crying, some of them were screaming," he said.
From there, a Shelby County Schools representative helped get children back home, police said.
When police located the bus at Overton Crossing and Woodlawn Terrace around 5:30 p.m., the driver was reportedly driving another bus load of students home.
In a statement on Tuesday, Durham School Services said "the driver stayed with the bus and followed proper protocol in contacting the dispatch office regarding the stop. The students exited the bus on their own accord."
Becoming a Durham driver is a rigorous process. Prior to employment, all Durham applicants must pass multiple pre-screening checks that include: Criminal background check, motor vehicle record review, DOT pre-employment drug screen, and DOT medical examination—all conducted by third parties.
Driver training is comprised of 20 hours in the classroom, 20 hours behind-the-wheel, monthly safety meetings, ongoing refresher training and annual behind-the-wheel driver evaluations.
Shelby County Schools released the following statement:
Several students from Treadwell Middle were dropped off before their assigned bus stops yesterday afternoon. All students were safe; however, the matter remains under investigation. Student safety is our top priority, and we will always take appropriate action when bus safety procedures are not followed. The driver of this route has been removed while the matter is investigated further.
After pressing for more answers, a Durham spokesperson said they can confirm the students were not kicked off the bus or threatened.
When asked how that’s confirmed, they referred us to Memphis Police.
An MPD spokesperson said they couldn't confirm that, but said no criminal charges have been filed and it’s an ongoing investigation.
WREG repeatedly asked Durham how calling a dispatch center after leaving kids in a random area is protocol, and what the center does, but that’s when they stopped responding.
We went to the address listed for the driver Tuesday, but no one came to the door.
Shelby County Schools said the driver has been removed while the matter’s investigated and that student safety is a top priority.
Superintendent Dorsey Hopson has not responded on social media for a comment.
Grimes says regardless of the situation, he can't imagine someone leaving children by themselves like that.
"Those were somebody else's children. That just lets me know some people don't care about children, but I do."