The man who attacked a bus driver aboard a packed school bus on Nov. 5, 2010 has been sentenced to five years deferred adjudication through a plea bargain agreement in Texas’ 71st District Court.
Defendant John Dale Johnson, 37, was arrested and charged with injury to the elderly after beating a 70-year-old bus driver, according to the Marshall News Messenger. The victim was hospitalized with abrasions and blurred vision, and Johnson was later arrested.
“We spoke to the bus driver, who is the victim. He was in agreement with that,” said Harrison County District Attorney Coke Solomon.
According to Solomon, the victim, Harold Singleton, is a cancer survivor who empathized with Johnson because he is also battling an illness and decided to give him a break.
“But he definitely wanted him to be held accountable, too,” Solomon added.
At the time of the incident, police reported that Singleton had just picked up a busload of students from J.H. Moore Elementary School in Marshall when he pulled out of the school at approximately 4 p.m., only to be blocked by Johnson’s vehicle.
Police said Johnson, who is a parent, boarded the bus and attacked Singleton in front of the students. Johnson claimed that he was upset with the bus driver for allegedly injuring his son. At the time, Singleton told the News Messenger that he had no comment regarding the allegation.
Now, Johnson must pay a $1,000 fine plus court costs and perform 150 hours of community service as part of his probation. In addition, he must complete both the Substance Abuse Evaluation and drug/alcohol education course within three months. Without the plea bargain deal, he would have faced punishment ranging from a fine of up to $10,000, to a prison term of two to 10 years.
To address the threat of school-bus trespass, NSTA’s Safety and Security Committee recently developed new driver training material, “School Bus Security During Loading and Unloading,” that is available to all members. Much of the material was developed in response to the onboard murder of bus driver Charles Poland, Jr., in Midland, Ala., last January. Read more about this new driver training module in the January issue of STN, which is coming soon.
Yet training cannot avert every incident involving an irate parent boarding a school bus, noted Peggy Burns, Esq., who is president and consultant at Education Compliance Group as well as the former in-house counsel for a large Colorado school district.
"This happened so quickly and without warning that there may be little to learn from the situation," Burns said of the 2010 incident. "The bus driver apparently had no recourse or or any defensive action available to him."