Stop arm violations, accountability frustrating Fayette County school bus drivers

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Fayette County bus drivers reached out to FOX59 Investigates after they felt their concerns over school bus stop arm violations were not being heard. Exclusive video shows drivers blowing past extended stop arms, and drivers insist there is no accountability.

Bus Driver Jay Rowe said he clocked 18 violations in 30 days.

“It just goes through me every single time because we’ve all seen the headlines,” Rowe said. “Some child’s been hit.”

Bus drivers’ biggest concern is a tragedy will happen before people pay attention.

“For us bus drivers, we’ve got the cameras, we drill in safety for our kids and if we’re doing our part but then the next level is not doing their’s, it’s a team effort,” Kerie Bendure said.

So far this year, the Fayette County School Corporation has filed at least 83 stop arm violations with the Connersville Police Department. The Connersville Police Department sent 28 citations.

“There’s a checklist of things that have to be met,” Sgt. Clint Brown said. “No fault of the school at all and the bus drivers, that’s not their area, that’s what we have to do.”

The police department investigates violations sent from the school corporation. But, that takes time, specifically for the chief deputy.

“We are essentially a middle man in this,” Brown said. “The school system has an SRO that’s on campus all day, as to where our deputy chief has multiple responsibilities of the department.”

The police department wants the Fayette County School Corporation’s school resource officers, paid for by the schools, to handle the citations after the video is reviewed by the school transportation department and a member of the IT department.

But, the assistant superintendent says it is not in the SROs’ job description to handle violations that take place on city streets or county roads during their shifts. The district said the school board would be involved if there were to be more SROs hired or if funding/job description changes are made.

On October 6, an email from the Connersville Police deputy chief to the director of transportation said, “Just checking to see if you had made any communications with the SROs in reference to taking over the issuing of citations for the school corporation. We need to make this happen ASAP. Our police department budget can’t sustain it.”

“I thought, ‘Wait a minute, safety of these kids is not worth $7; it says it’s coming out of their budget,” Rowe said. 

Sgt. Brown said this email referred to manpower. Brown said it costs about $8 to send a citation and $30 total counting the investigation.

“In no way would we ever suggest that we wouldn’t absorb a cost to protect kids,” Brown said.

A meeting between the prosecutor’s office, police and the schools is planned for after Thanksgiving to work on an agreement for handling the load of footage and suspected violations.

“Once we talk as a group, and stop A and B communicating with D and C, I think once we sit down at a table, we can find that there is some neutrality there that everybody can share a load of this,” Brown said.

As an additional note, Fayette County Prosecutor Bette Jones said their office has filed all cases they have received which is 12.

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