Niles Community Schools responds to school bus incident

Published 5:48 pm Sunday, March 10, 2024

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UPDATE: The district announced Monday, March 11 that First Student – its transportation company – has reported that another driver was on the bus assisting the first-time driver with directions and stop locations. According to the update, due to the noise throughout the bus and their focus on route and drop-offs, the drivers did not hear the argument or witness the misconduct.

NILES — Niles Community Schools has issued a statement regarding an incident that occurred on a school bus involving a fifth-grade student and a younger student. 

“I want to reiterate and emphasize that we, as a school district, share your concerns regarding this disturbing event,” wrote Superintendent Dan Applegate. “The safety and well-being of our students are our top priorities, and any incident that jeopardizes these is taken with the utmost seriousness.”

The incident raised concerns in the community after a student video of the incident – showing a fifth-grade student beating a younger student on a school bus – was posted online. According to Applegate, immediate actions were taken in response to the incident even before the video was posted online, which included collaboration with the local police department and the initiation of its disciplinary process. 

“Our buses are equipped with video cameras, which have been instrumental in our review of the situation,” he wrote. “Both the school district and the bus company are actively evaluating additional measures to further enhance the safety of our students and prevent such situations from occurring in the future.”

Applegate acknowledged the questions and concerns regarding the bus driver’s response during the incident and clarified that safety protocols require the bus driver to pull over as soon as it is safely possible to intervene.

“No assistant was on the bus to assist the bus driver,” he wrote. “Immediate and abrupt stopping of the bus is not always feasible due to protocols and regulations designed to ensure the safety of all students on board. These guidelines are in place to prevent putting other students at risk of harm.”

Applegate said the district has been “in continuous cooperation with the local police department to ensure a thorough investigation is conducted.” In following the district’s disciplinary procedures to address the matter appropriately, the Code of Conduct committee will meet Tuesday to review the incident, the disciplinary procedures that have already been implemented, including removal from the bus and school, in detail and provide a recommendation to the Board for their consideration.

In addition, he said Mental health supports are readily available at NCS schools for any child in distress. 

“Our counselors are also prepared to refer families to local agencies for more in-depth assistance beyond what the school can provide.”

Applegate encouraged parents to engage in meaningful discussions with their children about the importance of appropriate behavior, both in school and on the bus. 

“It is through our collective efforts that we can foster an environment where such incidents do not happen in the future,” he wrote. “Our commitment to the safety and well-being of our students is unwavering. We will continue to keep you informed of any developments regarding this matter.”

Readers with any questions or concerns are encouraged to reach out to Applegate’s office directly.

“Thank you for your continued support and cooperation,” he wrote. “We appreciate those who have contacted us to ensure we were aware of the situation. As a school community, we need to continue to work together to maintain a safe and nurturing environment for all our students.”