ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. -- A St. Lucie County substitute bus driver is under investigation after a student snapped a cell phone picture that appears to show her texting behind the wheel, while students were on the bus.
Lincoln Park Academy student, Austin Ritchey, 15, told his mother, Jennifer Conway, that his bus driver was acting dangerously.
"I was concerned for my safety because she was texting and driving on 95," Ritchey said.
Ritchey says he took the picture to have proof of the bus driver's actions, but says there were other things the driver was doing he didn't record.
"She took the purse on her lap and let go of the steering wheel to dig through the purse. Then she pulled out a bottle with a brown liquid in it," RItchey said.
The picture also appears to show the driver not wearing a seatbelt.
Ritchey told Conway what he saw when right when she picked him up from the bus stop. "He gets in the car and goes, I'm not getting on the bus tomorrow. I go, 'why?'"Conway explained.
Ritchey showed her the picture, sparking her anger. She contacted Port St. Lucie Police and the St. Lucie County School District.
"When you have other children's lives in your hands, it's all the more important that you pay attention," Conway said.
A spokeswoman for the St. Lucie County School District released the following statement to WFLX:
St. Lucie Public Schools is conducting an investigation amid allegations of a substitute bus driver not following appropriate safety protocols. This matter is being taken very seriously as the safe transit of students to and from school is paramount to the District. The substitute driver has been removed from duties pending the results of the investigation.
The district also detailed the following steps that were taken upon receiving the complaint from Conway.
- There was an allegation of using a phone and drinking an unknown liquid.
- After receiving a parent call, Transportation and School Security used GPS to pinpoint location of the bus.
- Substitute driver had stopped for layover after completing her run. (No students on bus at this time.)
- School Security confirmed the driver had cough medicine.
- Internal investigation underway regarding use of phone.
- Substitute driver has been removed from duties pending results of the investigation.
- Conway says she will be closely watching the progress of the investigation.
"I don't think they see the impact of what their job really means," Conway said.
"Of course I do hope that she gets another job, but she shouldn't be driving a bus," Ritchey said.