School driver on leave after hot 'torture bus'

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by Nina Mehlhaf, KGW Staff

khou.com

Posted on May 16, 2014 at 9:25 AM

VANCOUVER -- A Vancouver school bus driver is under investigation after a flood of angry calls from parents complaining about the conditions on her bus during Wednesday's peak temperatures.

Some Vancouver kids called it the "torture bus."

"It just felt like a heater or an oven," said Kali Gris wold, a student at Silver Start Elementary School.

The kids said they were forced to sweat and suffer after the bus driver refused to open the windows.

The driver, who has worked for the district for 25 years, was placed on leave by the district. Her name has not been released.

"You don't leave your animals in cars, you can't do that to children," said Jamie Noyce, mother of a 4th grader who rode the bus Wednesday afternoon.

The kids said it was punishment. The bus didn't have air conditioning, and the driver allegedly told the kids after some of them put pieces of paper into the heater vents the previous week that she wouldn't open any windows. She reportedly told them they could have started a fire.

School district rules say the driver is responsible for setting all the windows at the appropriate level before kids enter the bus. The rules also give the driver authority to discipline bad behavior. But the rules state they must either verbally warn the student, assign specific seats, or request a meeting with the parents if there is a problem.

More: Evergreen School District statement

"We care about the health and well being of all our kids," said Gail Spolar of the Evergreen School District. "If we think our students were in any kind of danger, that's why we began the investigation the moment that she [the driver] pulled back into the lot."

Parents told KGW they were shocked to see their kids walk in the door Wednesday, drenched in sweat with red faces. They were happy though, that the same driver wasn't behind the wheel the next morning.

"A substitute is good, but we still need to know what's going to happen," said Boyce. "I still think charges should be filed. Because if I would have left my child in the car and gone in the store for 15 minutes with the windows rolled up, I would be in jail right now . Something does need to happen."

The kids said the driver had a small fan to keep herself cool and her window was also open.

According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, when it's 93 degrees outside, the inside of a vehicle can climb to 125 degrees in just 20 minutes.

The investigation continues.

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