Driver relates emotions of children on school bus

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   Students on a school bus that was evacuated in Hampton on Friday because one of the students was carrying a pellet gun were scared in the situation, according to the bus driver.
   "I had some kids on the bus that were traumatized," said Ted Smith, driver of the bus. "I've got some kids that won't even get on the bus now because of it."
   Some of the younger children who went through the incident are receiving counseling through the school, Smith said. "Five, six, seven year old kids are very fragile," he said.
   In the incident, a 16-year-old boy was taken into custody and charged with going armed on school property and evading arrest. According to reports, the boy showed the pellet gun to other students, one of which reported the gun to Smith.
   Smith evacuated the bus at approximately 3 p.m. on Friday near the intersection of Dennis Cove Road and Tollett Street.
   Law enforcement officers arrived on the scene after being notified by a student who had known about the gun and gotten off the bus. Officers chased the boy and located him in a nearby trailer park.
   According to Smith, he was making his usual run through the area around Dennis Cove Road when some children approached him about getting off the bus. "I had some high school kids who normally get of on the end of the run, and they came to the front of the bus when I got to the bank and asked to get off," he said, adding that he replied to one of the students that her mother would not approve. He stated that the student replied that it was OK with her mother and that she had to get off the bus. As she exited, approximately five other students got off of the bus in that location as well.
   "After she got off, the bus was so quiet and that is unusual," Smith said.
   At that time, he stated, he had still not been notified about the student being in possession of a gun. "Those kids had been threatened that if they told me he had the gun he would shoot them," Smith said.
   Smith stated that after stopping at the bank, he continued on his route and was about to complete that portion of his run and turn back onto Dennis Cove Road when a student finally worked up the courage to notify him of the situation.
   Smith stopped the bus at a location where it would be safe to evacuate the students and asked them all to exit the bus, which, he said, they did in a very orderly fashion. "We had practiced evacuating the bus before so the students would know how and where to get off," he said.
   Bus drivers undergo training to help them be prepared for situations such as these, Smith said. "The main thing was I had to remain calm and not show any fear and get the kids off the bus," he said.
   The situation was emotionally trying for Smith as well as the children on his bus. "Honestly, I'm thinking about quitting driving because I don't want to go through this kind of thing again," he said. Smith is a retired truck driver who started driving a school bus three years ago. "I've seen things on the bus that's worse than anything I've seen on the road," he said. "I see some awfully good kids but then there is always those kids who are trying to prove they are tough."
   According to Smith, the boy who brought the pellet gun on the bus, a recent transfer from another school, had caused problems before. Smith said that he had caught the juvenile with tobacco on the school bus. "He'd only been up here for about three weeks and from day one he has tried to prove himself as a tough guy," Smith said.
   According to Dallas Williams, superintendent for Carter County schools, the student has been removed from the school for the time being. The juvenile had an initial court appearance earlier this week, and his hearing was postponed until April 17. After the hearing, Williams said, the school system will pursue appropriate action regarding the child. "This is a zero tolerance offense," Williams said.