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Irritated bus driver strands Moorhead students after forcing them off bus, district confirms

MOORHEAD — A bus driver working for a Moorhead School District subcontractor became upset with students he was driving home Tuesday, Nov. 22, and told them to get off the bus before driving away, school district officials confirmed.

The incident took place about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday in the 2500 block of 12th Avenue South, Superintendent Lynne Kovash said Wednesday, Nov. 23.

Kovash said there was apparently some sort of misbehavior on the bus and the driver told about 20 middle-school students to get off the bus and left them stranded. She got her first email from a parent about the incident about 4:26 p.m. Tuesday, she said.

She said the district immediately sent another bus to pick up the students, but many of the students had already managed to get other rides home by the time the second bus arrived.

"We wanted to make sure everyone was safe," Kovash said. "That was our first priority, to make sure the students were safe."

Kovash said the incident has been reported to appropriate authorities at the state and county levels.

Dan Bacon, the district's director of property services and transportation, said the unidentified bus driver works for Red River Trails, one of the district's busing subcontractors.

"We have asked them not to use him on school bus routes," Bacon said. "I don't know what his employment status is."

He said that he couldn't describe what the students did to provoke the driver.

"Just behavior among students, the driver got frustrated, and responded poorly (is) the short end of the story," Bacon said.

Kovash said the bus driver could have taken the students back to Horizon Middle School or any other nearby school to have the Horizon principal or other school district administrators handle the issue.

Because there is no school Wednesday, leading into the Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend, Kovash said the district will follow up with students on Monday, Nov. 28.

"We need to figure out what the misbehavior was on the bus," she said.

But even if students misbehave, "Never, ever would we leave students like that," she said.

"With our buses, we want our students to be safe, but they also have to behave," Kovash said. "Riding a bus is not a right, it's a privilege. When students misbehave, they can be suspended from riding the bus, those types of things. There are appropriate disciplines for when students are misbehaving."

At the same time, "I think that it's important, that students — if there's bullying and other things going on on the bus — I think it's important that students need to tell their administrators," Kovash said.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.

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