Denver Public Schools bus drivers stage afternoon ‘sick-out’ following fight with parent

Drivers failed to show up following the school district’s response to a Sept. 18 fight between a bus driver and a parent

A school bus sits outside Alameda International Senior/Junior High School in Lakewood. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A school bus sits outside Alameda International Senior/Junior High School in Lakewood. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Denver Public School officials reported delays on some bus routes Wednesday afternoon after a higher than normal number of bus drivers failed to show up to work.

As of 4:10 p.m., the school district reported that 22 of its 850 bus routes were experiencing delays with average delays of about 20 minutes. Three athletic events relying on DPS buses were canceled.

In a statement, the district said the absences stemmed from an altercation between a parent and a bus driver on Sept. 18. The local bus drivers union could not be reached for comment. A “sick-out” is when employees call in sick en masse.

On Tuesday night, the district notified parents of possible bus delays or cancellations on Wednesday morning, but morning buses ran normally. At 2 p.m. the district told parents and students to expect afternoon delays. These delays affected schools across the entire district including Joe Shoemaker Elementary School, Compass Academy Middle School and Place Bridge Academy.

The fight, which was recorded and widely circulated, ended with a bus driver pulling the hair of a mother trying to board his bus and the mother striking the driver three times in the face. The fight began after the driver made an irregular stop along his route to control students that he claims were misbehaving. Children on the bus called their parents and when a group of parents arrived on the scene, the bus driver and his aide held kids on the bus, prompting the mother, 32-year-old Brandi Martin, to board the bus to retrieve her children.

Police arrested Brandi Martin but Denver’s district attorney did not charge her or the DPS employees.

DPS is still investigating the incident and released the following statement regarding the DA’s decision:

“We continue to provide supports to the school community and to our Transportation Team. This was a difficult and unfortunate situation, and we are continuing our review of the incident. It is important to emphasize that there are necessary safety procedures in place for bus transportation that expressly prohibit non-district staff from entering a school bus. In addition, it is essential that adults lead by example for our students and that issues are resolved peacefully through dialogue and without physical altercation.

DPS leadership has met with the students and families who were on the bus, and we will be meeting with its Transportation Team tomorrow. We’re listening to feedback, answering questions, and providing support. We echo the District Attorney’s hope that we can all try to ” move forward and recognize the respective positions of those involved.” We are committed to moving forward and making any needed improvements in our policies and trainings to ensure our students and staff are supported and safe and that we are providing quality service to our families.”

Bus drivers did not release a statement on the sick-out, but DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova held a meeting Wednesday night to address the concerns of DPS’s Transportation Team. In the statement she apologized for what she said was an inadequate consideration of staff’s concerns.

“I want to acknowledge the anger and disappointment I heard from our Transportation Team members in regards to my initial public statement about the incident,” read Cordova’s statement. “I want to apologize to them for not sufficiently acknowledging the complexity of their jobs and showing support and appreciation for the work they do to serve our students and families.”

The statement also acknowledged that the investigation into the incident was still ongoing, but announced that the district had found  allegations made by one student that the aid was inappropriately touching children on the bus to be unfounded. Denverite previously reported about those allegations after reviewing a written statement from the student.

This story has been updated to include additional details from Cordova’s statement

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