Local News

December 8, 2013

Fired bus driver tells her side of the story

‘You just don’t know what it can be like’

She says they made fun of her age.

She says they ridiculed her voice.

She says they parroted her.

She says some even cursed her.

On a sunny day in November around 3 p.m., Rocky Face resident Cynthia Hall reached her breaking point. While driving students home from Dalton Middle School, the rowdy children became too much for Hall — a bus driver for First Student — to take.

So she pulled the bus over at the corner of Calhoun Street and South Glenwood Avenue and began lecturing the students about their perceived rambunctious behavior. When her discourse fell on some deaf ears, she radioed the local First Student dispatch center and eventually requested help from police.

Two officers from the Dalton Police Department responded. In a bus camera video that gained national media attention after being posted to The Daily Citizen’s website, the officers cursed several times at the students before leaving. The students continued to misbehave after the officers left, in Hall’s opinion.

The officers — Steve Collins and John Gurrieri — were suspended for two days without pay, required to complete 40 hours of service at local youth programs, received a written report in their personnel file and were ordered to undergo more verbal communication training, police officials said.

Hall didn’t get off as easy.

She was fired the next day, she said.

Hall said First Student — the transportation company used by Dalton Public Schools — fired her for requesting help from the police to handle students she felt were “out of control.”

In retrospect, Hall said Friday she “maybe could have swallowed my pride” when telling students to “shut up” in the video, but that the students “have been getting my goat so long I wasn’t about to back down.”

“I’m not perfect. I make mistakes,” she said. “I have a mouth that won’t stop sometimes and I get in trouble for it. But, you know, you just — you just don’t know what it can be like. You’d have to be a bus driver.”

Anita Brown, the local First Student location manager who was in charge of Hall, wouldn’t discuss the situation with a reporter last week and directed questions to First Student’s corporate office.

Jennifer Biddinger, spokeswoman for First Student, confirmed in an email that Hall was no longer employed by First Student. Asked if she had been fired, Biddinger wrote that company policy prohibits her from releasing personnel information.

Hall said she is ultimately less concerned with what Gurrieri said and more concerned about what her firing says about the lack of support for bus drivers from First Student administrators.

She added she “didn’t want her job back” and wanted to let people know how “out of control” buses can be to help other bus drivers seek changes to bus policies.

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