DENVER (CBS4) – A chaotic scene played out involving a school bus driver, a paraprofessional and a 32-year-old woman who police say was Brandi Martin, the parent of a student. Now Denver Public Schools is questioning its employees.
The bus was coming from the Denver Green School. The driver stopped twice to address a behavioral issue. The second time, the driver and para professional decided to hold the children until security arrived.
In a video taken by someone at the scene, children are heard screaming from the bus. A mother fights her way onto the bus to get her child. Moments later, she and one of the employees got into a scuffle.
According to a police report, a witness to the incident confirmed the mother repeatedly struck one of the employees in the face with a closed fist. Police made contact with the mother, later identified as Martin, and arrested her for assault.
The police report goes on to say that the victim involved was over the age of 70 and considered at-risk. He sustained visible injuries to his face and was transported to Denver Health for his injuries.
DPS officials say that after reviewing surveillance video from inside the bus, they believe the two employees could have handled the situation differently. As a result, it placed both the paraprofessional and driver on administrative leave.
“It’s clear that was not handled to the expectations we have. It is important as a district that when kids are in our care that they feel safe and cared for and unfortunately that did not happen in this situation,” said Mark Ferrandino, the Deputy Superintendent of Operations.
The case is still under investigation.
On Monday, the Denver Green School shared a statement to families:
Dear DGS Northfield families,
I expect news stories to break about the bus situation that occurred last Wednesday at some point today. This is a situation we communicated to bus families about on Wednesday and Thursday and shared in last week’s Thursday Folder to our entire community. We do not know how the media will portray this situation, but we know that media spotlight can bring forward positive changes within our society and we also know it can sometimes neglect to share the whole story. Below is some information to be transparent and communicative. It is long and attempts to be comprehensive, but could be left unread unless you are interested in learning more.
• What Happened in This Event: Bus 717 left DGS Northfield on Wednesday. The driver and bus para were concerned about student behavior from a few students. They pulled the bus over once, and then a second time with their final group of students, just before the normal McAullife stop. This second time, the bus driver called DPS safety and security to help with the student behavior and wanted every student to wait on the bus until safety and security arrived. Parents eventually spotted the bus and then many parents and students simply wanted the students off the bus. The driver wanted everyone to stay on the bus and the situation escalated with families and students yelling they wanted to get off the bus. Students were trying to get off the bus, but were forcibly blocked. A parent then did make it on the bus and a physical altercation between bus staff and parent ensued. A parent was charged with assault.
• How has DGS Northfield responded?DGS Northfield has no oversight with transportation, but we do work with this department. We have asked for a new driver and para and this request has been agreed upon, though that probably would have happened without us. We have tried to be communicative with families about what happened. We hosted a meeting with all involved students the next day to help them process events and emotions from a very traumatic experience. We supplied contact information to DPS for several families that were present to support the DPS investigation, which we are told is still ongoing. We also know that many families have expressed an interest in supporting the parent that is charged in this case. Because this is an update that was requested by families, here is the GoFundMe.
• Opinions from DGS Northfield: Once the situation escalated, and both parents and students wanted students off the bus, it would have been wiser to let students off the bus, that would have resolved the situation. Students depend on adults and professionals to be aware of a situation, to stay calm and be communicative and that didn’t happen. While we do not control transportation we are tasked with helping students lead a happy and successful life and we do know some of our students could have responded differently to authority, even if they do not like or respect that authority. Of greatest importance, we are incredibly saddened when we see the video because we see our students distraught and in full view of adults that are engaged in a physical confrontation. That is sad regardless of the situation because we want our students to feel safe at school, on the bus and throughout their day. We are glad we get to control the little world of DGS Northfield each day from 8:15-3:45 and we are proud that our environment and culture is strong. We know this event does not define us, we are also going to be honest and transparent where we can get better. We plan to do a better job working with transportation staff to build relationships with our students and to have strategies to deescalate situations. Our students are GREAT at school and we can extend that to other parts of their day by extending our influence beyond our narrow domain.
Hopefully, this email helps provide additional information to help families feel in the know, Kartal and Erin
Denver Green School Lead Partner