A recent report from a parent seeing a Lafayette County School District school bus driver using her cell phone while driving students has sparked questions from local parents and the community. According to an Oxford Eagle article, Diana Wells, a parent of a Lafayette Elementary School kindergartener, claimed to see a bus driver talking on her cell phone while children were on the bus. The consequences of bus drivers using their cell phones while driving children are discretionary and situational, according to Oxford Police Chief Mike Martin. “
As far as a criminal offense, it would be a traffic violation, and you’d be ticketed for using the phone while driving,” Martin said. “Generally speaking, you’d probably be fined somewhere around $200 if no accident results.” While parents and residents alike have expressed concern about drivers having cell phones, local school officials defend the drivers’ right to have their phones on the buses. Lafayette County bus drivers have been instructed not to use their cell phones for personal reasons, Lafayette County School District Superintendent Adam Pugh said. However, the lack of radio systems on Lafayette School District buses makes emergency situations more complicated. “In case of an emergency we want to be able to get in touch with them, so we allow them to have cell phones,” Pugh said. “If a child becomes ill or needs an ambulance, we want them to have cell phones or a means to get in touch with us or be able to call 911.” While Lafayette School District buses are not equipped with radio equipment, Oxford School District buses are. “(In the Oxford School District), cell phones are illegal to be used while transporting students,” Oxford School District Superintendent Brian Harvey said. “We have a radio system on buses so it’s not quite the same situation. We do cover with bus drivers that cell phones are not to be used while students are on the bus, but whether they have them on the bus or not, there’s no way to know that.” Despite Wells’ claim that she saw children on the bus, Pugh insisted otherwise. “I spoke with the driver and the driver did not have kids on the bus,” Pugh said. “It was her neighbor and it was an emergency at her house because her neighbor kept calling her over and over and she needed to deal with an issue. But there were no kids on the bus when the driver was on her cell.” Pugh declined to comment on the consequences, if any, the driver faced after Wells’ report. Wells told the Oxford Eagle that her child would no longer be riding the school bus.
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