Denver prosecutor won’t charge DPS employees involved in school bus fight

The school district’s investigation is ongoing and some parents are still looking for answers
5 min. read
Qaedah Perron, the mother of an 11-year-old who was involved in an incident on a Denver Public Schools bus, speaks to a reporter on her front porch. Oct. 1, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Denver District Attorney's Office will not file criminal charges related to an altercation between a parent and two Denver Public School bus workers in Park Hill. A parent recorded a video of the fight and it was widely circulated on social media over the last two weeks.

The Sept. 18 incident began after a bus driver pulled over en route from the Denver Green School Northfield, a middle school, to control students he says were misbehaving. Some of the children called their parents to pick them up and a crowd of parents` gathered at the scene. The workers physically prevented the children from leaving the bus, prompting one parent, Brandi Martin, 32, to climb onto the vehicle. The video shows the bus driver grapple with Martin and pull her hair before Martin turns to strike the bus driver three times on the face.

Emergency responders took the bus driver, the school bus aide and Martin to the hospital. Police then arrested Martin on suspicion of third-degree assault on an at-risk person over 70-years-old. In a statement released today, the DA announced they would not file formal charges against Martin or pursue charges against either of the workers.

"After reviewing all of the video footage and other materials, it is clear that this incident escalated very quickly and was difficult and emotional for everyone involved," Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said in a statement, adding, "The (Denver Public Schools) employees were in a difficult situation and believed they were handling matters as best they could. Ms. Martin was concerned about her child and took action that she believed was appropriate."

While the DA has closed the case, the school district's investigation is ongoing. Both the bus driver on the aide are on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation.

According to DPS officials, when bus drivers make a stop outside their normal route due to unruly behavior they are supposed to radio the transportation dispatch to request assistance from the DPS Department of Safety. If parents show up, the bus workers can reunite students with parents only once they've confirmed a parent's identity with a photo ID.

With the investigation ongoing, DPS has not said whether or not the bus workers were attempting to follow protocol, and it is unclear in the video if either of the bus workers were communicating the procedure to parents.

Quaedah Perron, the parent who created the video, told Denverite that the bus workers initially closed the doors and windows and kept students inside. According to Perron, the employees let her 11-year-old daughter off the bus along with one other student, but the bus workers never checked her ID. The bus workers wouldn't allow any of the other students off. When Perron's video starts, both workers can be seen blocking students and parents from passing through the rear exit door. The only clear sound in the video is screaming and crying from students in the minutes before Martin boards the bus.

No official reports of what happened on the bus prior to the incident exist. The DA and officials from DPS have reviewed a video recorded from inside the bus, but citing student privacy concerns, DPS will not release this footage.

Denverite reviewed a written statement from Perron's daughter in which she alleges that the bus aide grabbed her, held her down and brushed a hand over her chest after the bus was pulled over.

Perron says she tried several times to deliver this statement to the police department but was told she could not give the statement on her daughter's behalf. The Denver Police Department confirmed that they did take statements from students on the bus, but could not reveal which students they talked to.

After reviewing the other interviews and video footage, the DA's office dismissed the claims of inappropriate touching.

"At least one student alleged there was inappropriate touching, however, those claims are baseless and only contributed to the quickly unfolding events," McCann said in her statement.

Some parents also believe race played a factor in the treatment of the students, who were mostly people of color. Reps from Our Voice Our Schools, an advocacy group for parents and students of color, have said that the bus incident is emblematic of other issues of race within DPS.

"We don't want this issue to be taken as an isolated incident," said Hasira "Soul" Hashemu, an activist with Our Voice Our Schools. "This is a systemic issue that is predicated on race and class, something that DPS has failed to address in any sort of demonstrative way."

To address parents' concerns, DPS officials held a meeting at Denver Green School last week. At the meeting, the district committed to showing the video from inside the bus to parents at some later date. They also promised to have further meetings and take steps to avoid similar situations in the future.

"We talked about some of the steps we were taking, including increased training around de-escalation and cultural sensitivity to support our bus drivers," said Mark Ferrandino, the deputy superintendent of operations.

Despite these assurances, some parents feel that not enough is being done to make parents and students feel safe. She says she and other parents want the district to take a closer look at the protocol for emergency situations and to do more work with the families affected by the incident.

"We want to hear how are they going to implement something that is going to build trust again between the community and the departments," she said, "and to ensure to parents that this isn't going to happen again."

Recent Stories