LARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Four minutes and 12 seconds of chaos erupted when a woman stepped onto a school bus to confront a child she believed hit her stepdaughter in the mouth.
The incident, captured on a video obtained through a The Leaf-Chronicle public records request, shows KelaIeshia Hand, 22, grabbing a 7-year-old St. Bethlehem Elementary School second-grader and shouting profane threats at the child and at all the other young children on the bus.
The morning of April 25, an elementary school girl was apparently hit in the mouth at the Raleigh Court bus stop. The girl's mother and her mother's partner, Hand, boarded the bus to find out who hit their daughter, and things quickly escalated.
The video shows Hand getting on the bus, walking past the driver as the driver objects, yelling at the children, and trying to lead the 7-year-old boy she initially suspected of hitting her daughter off the bus as he cries and screams.
Hand is heard on the video telling the boy she is going to "(expletive) him up." The boy said he would tell his mom, according to the warrant, and Hand is heard yelling, "Go ahead. I will (expletive) her up too!"
Hand also cursed at and threatened all the other children on the bus.
In all, six adults got on the bus, walking past the driver over her objections. Some of the adults appeared to be checking on their children, some were arguing with the children over who started the fight, and one yelled sternly at the children to sit down and behave themselves.
The bus driver, Connie Pritzl, radioed Clarksville-Montgomery County School System dispatch after Hand first got on the bus, but then she put the radio down.
In the video, dispatchers can be heard in the background trying to get a response from Pritzl as she tries to control the situation.
A letter of reprimand in Pritzl's personnel file says dispatch called 911 to request assistance and was asking Pritzl for her location. After several attempts by dispatch to reach her, Pritzl finally radioed back and said the parent had left the bus, so the request for assistance from 911 was canceled.
Police responded to St. Bethlehem Elementary to begin an investigation.
Monica Rogers, the mother of the 7-year-old boy, is outraged that Hand was allowed on the bus and said the driver should be fired.
She said she didn't learn of what happened until later that afternoon, after an arrest had been made.
"The principal told me there was an incident on the bus. ... The parent boarded the bus, cursed out the kids and pinpointed my son, thinking he was the one who hit her daughter," Rogers said.
"She pulled him by his arm out of the seat and said you are going to get off this bus. She grabbed his arm and proceeded to the front of the bus with him. There was another student by the stairs who told her he didn't do it."
Rogers' son has epilepsy, and she feared the upsetting situation could lead to a seizure.
"I wondered if he is OK, is he all right," Rogers said. "I was thinking is he emotionally OK because this strange woman he'd never seen came to him and told him he'd hit her daughter. He didn't hit anyone. He didn't do it and didn't know what she was talking about."
She said her son has never had any issues with fighting on the bus or at school. When her son got off the bus that afternoon, she walked him home.
"I asked him how he felt. He said, 'She didn't do anything. The bus driver. She didn't help me or do anything," Rogers said.
"Monday morning, he said he didn't want to go on the bus. I said it will be OK. I will call your principal and make sure everything's OK. I contacted his principal and asked to view the tape so I know what actions to take next."
Seeing the video made her furious at the bus driver, she said.
"She should be held accountable, not for the woman's actions but for what happened. She allowed the lady on the bus. ... She walked past the bus driver. The bus driver said she can't be on the bus, but that won't make a grown person move."
Barred from school
Hand was charged with two counts of assault and one count of disorderly conduct.
She also was sent a letter from the principal of St. Bethlehem Elementary informing her she would no longer be allowed on school property. If she enters school property, she will be charged with trespassing, the letter said.
Phone calls and messages to Hand were not returned before press time Tuesday evening.
School system policy states no parent should ever be allowed on a school bus. Only the bus driver and CMCSS personnel are allowed on.
Elise Shelton, spokeswoman for CMCSS, said that following the investigation, Pritzl was suspended for two days without pay on May 1 and 2.
Pritzl, who has worked as a bus driver with CMCSS since November 2009, also was placed on a five-day alternate work site without pay May 5-9. She has since been reassigned to the food services department, Shelton said.
This was the second such incident this year involving Pritzl. On Feb. 17, Pritzl was reprimanded for a similar situation where a parent boarded her bus. During a meeting with her supervisor, the proper procedure was reviewed, according to a letter in her record.
"We appreciate the hard job drivers do," Shelton said. "The concern for the school system is the safety of the children. That is what's most important. We have to keep children safe at all times."