New video shows moments before students climbed from Paulding County school bus

Video provided to Atlanta News First shows the driver explaining to parents that there were kids without tags on their backpacks and therefore, she couldn’t let them off.
One of the parents appears to slap the driver before the driver shuts the door and drives off.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 7:07 PM EST
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DALLAS, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - A substitute bus driver in Paulding County has been suspended as the school district and the Dallas Police Department conduct separate investigations into an incident at a bus stop.

Samantha Lee said her 8-year-old daughter was terrified Wednesday afternoon when she couldn’t get off the school bus at her normal stop, near the intersection of Old Harris Road and Jimmy Lee Smith Parkway. Onboard the bus were dozens of Paulding County School District students, including kids from Allgood Elementary.

“My daughter was terrified because she thought the bus driver was kidnapping her,” Lee said. “The parents were asking over and over again, ‘Please open the door. Please let us see our children.”

Lee provided Atlanta News First with a video of the incident during which the driver attempts to explain to parents that there are kids without tags on their backpacks and therefore, she couldn’t let them off. Students who are too young to get off the bus alone are given yellow tags.

Lee said while some students didn’t have a tag, her child had one.

“I was freaking out because my son was already off the bus,” Lee said.

The back and forth between the driver and the parents eventually escalated. At one point in the video, at least two parents enter the bus. The driver demands they exit the bus. Some kind of altercation occurs as one of the parents appears to assault the driver, before the driver shuts the door and drives off.

“I think we were really concerned for the safety of our children at that point,” Lee said.

Videos online show parents surrounding the bus at the intersection. Students onboard start to climb out the windows and out the back emergency door. The chaotic scene went viral on TikTok.

“I feel like she was doing her job,” said Dana Toole.

Toole has two children who ride the bus. She managed to get them off the bus before the situation escalated. Unlike other parents, she said she supports the driver’s actions.

“I mean, I would rather my kid be safe than just dropped off because you never know what can happen to your kids,” Toole said.

The Paulding County School District sent the following statement regarding the incident:

“The Paulding County School District is investigating an incident that occurred Wednesday afternoon at a school bus stop at the intersection of Old Harris Road and Jimmy Lee Smith Parkway. An Allgood Elementary School bus was being driven by a substitute driver, as the normal driver for that route had fallen ill that morning. A large number of students typically deboard the bus each day at this particular bus stop. This afternoon that process broke down as the substitute driver was trying to manage the release of younger students. A backup resulted and the situation soon escalated as parents waited at the stop for their students. Ultimately, school district personnel requested the assistance of the Dallas Police Department. The school district is investigating the issue as a personnel matter, and the driver has been suspended pending an internal investigation. After law enforcement arrived and students for that stop had deboarded the bus, a supervisor assisted in the transportation of the remaining students. Thankfully, all students eventually arrived home safely.”

When asked, the district would not elaborate further on its deboarding process nor why the driver was suspended. Dallas PD continues to investigate the incident.