Bus driver Katie Chapman, employed by Vian Public Schools for seven years, is accused of picking up a “hitchhiker” and her dog on Sept. 12 and giving the pair a ride to the hitchhiker’s home, KFSM reported.
Superintendent Victor Salcedo said there were approximately 24 students, in grades kindergarten through 12th, on the bus when the hitchhiker was picked up.
Naticia Drew, a parent of three students who were on the bus, said her children told her about the incident.
“The kids got off of the bus about 3:30 p.m. They came on as usual, did homework and then my sister comes in a little bit after 4 p.m. and her son had told his mom that (the bus driver) did something. Then, he grabbed his mouth really fast and said, ‘Oops, I wasn't supposed to tell nobody,’” Drew told KFSM. “He goes on to tell us after we had asked him several times that she had picked up an unknown stranger -- a hitchhiker I guess you could call her -- and a dog and allowed her to get on the bus with our kids. Not only did I feel like they were in danger, but anything could have happened to these kids. To make it even worse, for her to tell the kids not to say anything or they would have consequences or be in trouble for it.”
Drew said there have been problems with the bus driver before.
“Several situations ... The kids have been late for 45 minutes because they told me she felt like she needed to call on some horses or some dog that were sick and wait on animal control to get there,” Drew told KFSM.
Parents complained to school officials about Chapman’s action.
But according to Chapman, the woman she picked up was a parent of students on the bus.
Chapman said the woman was waiting for her children at a bus stop about half a mile from their home, KFSM reported. She said she allowed the woman on the bus after being alerted of a fugitive on the loose in the area. Chapman said she was concerned for the woman’s safety.
“I want somebody to understand that it was my choice of safety. It was a humanitarian act,” Chapman said.
Chapman said the dog was well behaved and she told students on the bus, “This is a one-time only thing. It will never happen again. It is strictly for the safety of other human beings.”
In a formal letter, Salcedo wrote to Chapman:
“On September 12, 2017, you were notified that a fugitive may be roaming the area around a district bus stop. Concerned about te safety of students, you asked for permission to drop off certain students at tehir residence rather than at the designated bus stop ...
“While driving students to their residence, you encountered an individual by the side of the road with a leashed dog. You motioned the individual over to the bus and invited herh to ride the bus the rest of theh way to ehr residence ... The individual boarded te bus with her animal and rode the bus the remainder of the way to her residence ...
“You knew or shoulud ahve known that the person you allowed to enter the bus had a criminal record and was currently on probation for drug related charges ... By exposing students to an unauthorized individual, you violated the trust that parents place in our school district to keep their children safe ...
“Our buses are for transpotring students, not the public.”
Chapman hasn’t been fired yet. She has 10 days to request a hearing with the board of education.