PAULDING COUNTY, Ga. — A substitute bus driver is on administrative leave after an argument with frustrated parents spiraled out of control. The Dallas Police Department responded to the scene Wednesday at a Paulding County school bus drop-off location at the intersection of Old Harris Road and Jimmy Campbell Parkway.
Social media video, that has since gone viral, shows a parent slapping the bus driver, after parents said she would not let kids off the bus and pushed the parent trying to board the bus. After the slap, the driver shuts the door and drives off with the kids.
The Paulding County School District said young students are required to wear a bus stop tag on their bookbag. The district told 11Alive at least one child did not have a bag tag, so the bus driver was hesitant to let them disembark. Video shows at one point, kids were throwing backpacks out of the school bus windows and tried to climb out of the windows to parents waiting below.
Dana Toole said she had two kids on the bus at the time, but her children managed to get off the bus before the chaos ensued. She said she is still in disbelief, after her daily ritual was upended when a fight broke out on the bus.
"All that happened right as I got my kids off the bus," Toole said. "The parents were really reckless and irresponsible at the time. I think things should've been handled a lot differently than they were. I don't know why or how it even got to that point. It should have never even gotten to that point."
Jaco Swanepoel, who works across the street from the scene, witnessed the confrontation.
“All the cops started showing up, ladies were recording and kids were jumping out the window," Swanepoel said. “It’s always busy at that intersection. We’ve watched a couple accidents here. People pull out in front of each other, and sometimes there are pedestrians coming across. I was just hoping no one got run over or anything.”
The Dallas Police Department initially told 11Alive the driver had been fired, but 11Alive received a response from the school district hours after inquiring about the driver's status. Officials said she was on administrative leave pending the investigation of the incident.
Police said criminal charges could be filed against the parent who slapped the bus driver, but the investigation needed to play out first. All the students on the bus eventually got home safely.
“Nobody knows who to blame," Swanepoel said. "Some people are blaming the bus driver. Some are blaming the parents. I don’t really know.”
Toole said counselors were available for students this week in the wake of the incident. She said she was in favor of changes to the school district's transportation policy when it came to drop-off locations and how bus drivers should be held accountable.
“Maybe drop-offs should be a little different, so that way this doesn’t happen again," Toole said. "Most neighborhoods I’ve been in, they drop off the kids at the neighborhood drop-off location, and they just kind of go. But if you’re a parent, you’re teaching your kids how to act and present themselves, and that’s not OK.”