When a man tried driving around a school bus Wednesday morning in the Colonial Mobile Home Park, Diane Ellis says she stepped in the middle of the road and started yelling.
“‘Stop! Stop! You cannot pass this bus,’” shouted Ellis, as her grandson and about 15 other elementary students loaded onto the bus.
“He kept telling me he was going to run me over,” said Ellis, who replied, “Hit me!”
Ellis says the driver kept inching forward and passed the flashing lights on the back of the bus. She says he came within a “few feet of the kids.”
The retired bus driver, who spent 14 years behind the wheel for the Virginia Beach City Public Schools, says she didn’t think twice about confronting the man.
“I wasn’t going to let those kids get hurt,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking. I’d rather it be me than one of them.”
After the incident, Ellis says she took the man’s license plate information and a vehicle description to the 2nd Precinct. Officers told her they couldn’t take a report because they didn’t see it happen, according to Ellis.
“It’s ridiculous. Something needs to be done,” she said. “We need to get these people into court and the judge needs to be hard on them and let them know you can’t do this. You’ve got to pay for your consequences.”
Master Police Officer Tonya Pierce says passing a school bus while loading or unloading is a Class 2 misdemeanor that could come with a fine or jail time, but an officer has to witness the violation.
“There are certain things that need to be observed by an officer, but citizens can certainly call the precinct and ask for additional patrols during bus hours if it’s a prevalent problem,” said Pierce. “Student safety is our number one priority.”
Pierce also said officers can use license plate information to be on the lookout for repeat offenders,
Above all else, Ellis hopes drivers will be more aware to keep students in all neighborhoods from getting hurt.
“Pay attention, please. These kids are innocent. They don’t need anybody that has their mind somewhere else to hit them and destroy their life.”
VBCPS say they have about 700 buses in their fleet and all of them are equipped with cameras inside.
The district says they’re looking into a pilot program for next year to install stop arm cameras on some buses.