A school bus driver is on paid administrative leave from the Puyallup School District while police investigate an altercation that occurred Tuesday morning involving the driver and a 15-year-old student.
Puyallup Police spokesman Scott Engle said Tuesday afternoon that surveillance video of the incident shows the boy as the aggressor, getting “in the driver’s face,” swinging at the driver and knocking the man’s hat off.
The boy, however, tells the story differently: “I never came at him first. I did not get on the bus expecting to have to fight my bus driver.” The student, a sophomore at Puyallup High School, says he fought back after he was attacked and choked by the driver.
Another student who was on the bus also told The News Tribune that the driver made the first aggressive move.
“The driver flipped out,” the student witness said, adding that yet another student pulled the driver off the 15-year-old.
The News Tribune has requested a copy of the bus video from the school district, under the state public records act. That request is pending.
I never came at him first. I did not get on the bus expecting to have to fight my bus driver
Puyallup High School student
The boy said the incident started on the way to school, when some students sitting in the back of the bus began playing music on a phone, amplified by a portable speaker.
The driver asked them to turn it down, and they complied, the boy said. But then they turned it up and down several more times, he added.
He said the bus driver told the students involved in the loud music to stay on the bus after they arrived at school. Engle said the driver had radioed ahead to the school to report a problem with a student on the bus.
The 15-year-old said he had been talking to the kids playing music, but that he wasn’t playing it. He assumed he was free to go once the bus stopped.
But he said the driver yelled at him and blocked his exit.
The boy said he told the driver he wasn’t going to stay on the bus. He said his mom had previously explained to school officials that he has “anger issues.”
“They told me if I know I’m going to explode, I should go to the office, sit and chill,” said the boy, who spoke to The News Tribune with his mother’s permission. “I tried to tell him I was going to the office.”
When the boy tried to climb over the seat, the driver grabbed him by the shirt, shoved him against a window and “put his hands around my throat.”
A student witness, interviewed separately, corroborated much of the boy’s story.
The boy’s mother said her son has bruises, hand marks on his neck and marks on his back. She said she has seen video of the incident.
“It looked like a wrestling match,” she said. “He grabbed my son by the throat. My son had a bigger, older gentleman wrestling with him. My son is going to swing back.”
Police: Surveillance video of the incident shows the boy as the aggressor
The mother said family issues have contributed to her son having a “tough year.” She said her son got in trouble for talking back to a teacher on Monday.
“He’s an emotional kid,” she said, adding that his slight stature can sometimes cause him to get defensive and mouth off to adults.
Still, she said the bus driver should not have laid hands on her son.
“This person is supposed to be trained,” she said. “He should know better than to lay hands on a minor. I don’t even lay hands on my son.”
The school district did not release the name of the bus driver. District spokesman Brian Fox said the district placed the driver on leave during the police investigation. But he said the district would wait for the results of the police investigation before deciding whether the driver would face district discipline.
Engle said Tuesday afternoon that no arrests had been made. He said that when the police investigation is complete, the information would be forwarded to prosecutors for a decision on whether charges are filed.