News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, April 25, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It's the person who drives and protects your children on their way to school. A serious job that some worry bus driver Tamara Blount is not taking seriously at all.
Crystal Mills is a concerned parent whose daughters rode on Blount's route last year to Pine Hill Middle School.
"My children would come home, tell me how the bus driver was so rude to [my daughter], would say rude things to her, so I started going up the chain of command."
Mills and her husband says they filed five complaints about the problems and even met with transportation officials.
But, says her daughter Destiny, things never seemed to get better.
"I wasn't scared of her, I just felt like she didn't want me there," she said.
Then in eighth grade, Destiny admits she was not "easy to deal with on the bus." She remembers Blount greeting the other children but ignoring her.
"They say kids don't have stress. Adults say that. But teenagers do have a lot of stress on them. So somebody being rude to you doesn't help," she said.
Last January, the driver pulled over on the side of the road because the kids were too unruly. Mills' husband noticed the bus and called her to ask what was going on. She decided to go down the road to see what was wrong.
Mills explained that when she got there, she lost her temper.
"By that time, I did stoop to her level. I had been complaining for five months and nothing was being done. And she had done pushed the wrong button that day."
The incident reports and witness statements detail a heated argument between the two women, and Mills was charged with upbraiding a bus driver with fighting words. She denies ever cursing during the fight.
Throughout Mills' court proceedings, her lawyer obtained copies of Blount's personnel file.
What was inside shocked Mills and her family.
"I thought I was gonna have a heart attack," she said.
These documents show a string of complaints, including:
The parents who talked to News 12 insist the worst of the incidents is Blount allowing an unauthorized man to ride the bus when children were on board.
"I can almost understand the time sheets. I can understand lying on the application, maybe. But having the man on the bus? Going to pick him up on the routes? Having him around those children? I do not think there's a second chance for that," said Mills, shaking her head.
Blount did get a second chance. In addition to the two-page reprimand, she was suspended for two days without pay.
Other parents, like Beverly Laprade, also filed complaints about Blount.
"She'd be coming down the road and going so fast, she couldn't stop to pick them up," Laprade described, pointing down Rollins Road in Augusta. "It'd be like, oh goodness, here she comes again. And there she goes, right past the stop."
Laprade does not know Mills, but the experiences their children each described on the bus are similar.
"There were mornings where we could not make him get up and go get on that bus. Not because he didn't want to go to school. He just didn't want to get on that bus," she said.
She says her 12-year-old nephew felt singled out and was very uncomfortable on the bus.
"He told me one time that she drives that fast because she had to go pick her boyfriend up, " Laprade said. "I couldn't believe it."
These parents say their goal coming forward was not to get anyone in trouble. They just can't understand why Blount is still driving a Richmond County bus.
"Do we really need a person like that driving our bus? That's not safe for our children," Mills said.
"She doesn't need to work for the Board of Education. In my opinion," Laprade said.
News 12 has been in communication with Richmond County Schools. We're told their board attorney is preparing a statement. We asked for information regarding their decision to suspend -- and not terminate -- Blount after the investigation involving her boyfriend on the bus. We also requested information regarding the results of her drug test in 2009.
News 12 was unable to obtain a current phone number or address for Blount. We have not been able to reach her for comment about the various complaints in her file.
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