GERMANTOWN — Germantown Central School officials are evaluating the district’s accident reporting procedures after a video posted on social media purportedly shows a bus driver using a cell phone while driving to report a crash.
The bus driver, who was not identified by the district, struck a telephone pole Jan. 18 at 7:52 a.m. after the bus skidded on ice while negotiating a corner on County Route 8, Germantown School District Superintendent Susan Brown said Monday.
“That bus slid on ice while rounding a corner and the side-view mirror did hit a telephone pole,” Brown said.
No students were injured in the accident, Brown said.
A video circulating on social media taken by a Germantown student purportedly shows the bus driver talking on a cell phone while the bus is in motion. It is unclear from the video when it was taken or if it was taken before, during or after the accident.
The driver is employed by Pulcher Transportation of Stottville, Brown said. The district did not identify the driver, citing personnel reasons.
At the request of the school district, the driver is no longer traveling Germantown routes as of the date of the incident, Brown said.
“I can’t speak to the contractor, but that person no longer drives for Germantown Central Schools,” Brown said.
Parent Melissa Mryrdycz has three sons who attend school in the district. She said she was told by the children on the bus that the driver was using a cell phone when the accident happened.
“The kids are told, ‘If you see something, you say something,’ but they [the district] don’t believe them without video proof,” Mryrdycz said. “But by then, it will be too late.”
Mrydycz is frustrated with the school’s response. She said a phone call about whether the driver was no longer traveling routes for the district was not returned until more than a week later.
“We follow up on all of them [complaints from parents],” Brown said. “Nothing is more important than keeping the children safe. We work very closely with our contractors. Any time any parent reaches out and calls us, we look into his or her concerns.”
Driving while using a cell phone is a traffic violation, and carries a fine of between $50 and $150 for a first-time offender, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicle’s website.
Pulcher did not say whether the driver is still working for the company.
Pulcher is not required to report accidents to police where damage to the bus is estimated to be less than $1,000, a representative from the company said. The representative said the company followed protocol and reported the incident to school officials.
“We feel that this is a witch hunt considering it’s a situation that happened six weeks ago,” Pulcher Transportation said in a statement Tuesday. “We have followed protocol regarding all procedures and complied with Germantown Central Schools’ request.”
The bus company declined to comment further on the incident.
The district is aware of the video of the driver and the incident is being investigated, Brown said.
“We are presently changing protocol,” Brown said. “We are always looking to improve protocol.”
Changing the protocol would require input from first responders and all bus companies that contract with the district, Brown said.
Germantown has contracts with four companies for bus services: Zanchelli Bus Lines in Germantown, Michael Johnston Company in Philmont, Coxsackie Transportation and Pulcher. The district occasionally partners with other contractors, as needed, Brown said.
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