(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) — A Colorado school bus driver faces 30 counts of child abuse after he braked hard in an apparent attempt to teach students on the bus a lesson, according to school and court records.
Brian Fitzgerald, 61, had recently started driving for the Douglas County School District when the incident occurred the afternoon of March 1, according to school records obtained by Colorado Springs ABC affiliate KRDO.
In camera footage from inside the bus, released by the school district, the driver can be heard telling Castle Rock Elementary School students to be in their seats before saying, “You guys want to see how dangerous that is?”
The students are then seen being thrown against the seats in front of them after the driver appeared to abruptly hit the brakes while driving around 9 mph.
“Did you get that?” the driver then says. “That’s why you need to be in your seat. Turn around and sit down properly.”
The surprised students can be heard saying “Why would he do that?” and asking each other if they are OK. One student can be seen taking out a cellphone and calling someone to report what happened, saying, “The bus driver hit the brakes, and somebody got hurt so badly and is, like, bleeding on the cheek.”
Later, the bus camera video captures the driver telling a parent that he is a substitute bus driver and that he was “trying to get them to get in their seats.”
“I was coming to a stop and I hit the brakes hard because they weren’t, they were not listening. So, I’m sorry if she got hurt,” he said.
A misdemeanor complaint was filed against Fitzgerald on April 12 that includes 29 charges of child abuse with no injury and one count of child abuse with bodily injuries, online court records show. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on May 12.
Fitzgerald did not respond to calls and messages from ABC News.
In a letter to the school district dated March 1, obtained by KRDO, Fitzgerald apologized for his actions and expressed concerns about what he described as “a repetitive historical pattern of improper student management” on the bus he was driving that day.
“I am sincerely sorry for my choice of actions today in my efforts of training students,” the letter stated. “I am still 100% responsible for my actions in trying to both educate and control students on the bus. Being a new driver, I did not make the best decision and if I were able to redo what I did I would rethink my decisions.”
The Douglas County School District hired Fitzgerald as a bus driver in October 2022 and he had finished his training days before the March 1 incident, according to internal school records reviewed by KRDO. He had previously only driven special education students before being asked to fill in on a route and drive a general education bus for the first time on March 1, according to the records. An investigation found that he “did brake check” the students while approaching a stop sign, according to the records obtained by KRDO.
A Douglas County School District spokesperson confirmed to ABC News that Fitzgerald is no longer with the school district. Thanks to parents and the principal who reported the incident, the school district was able to “take swift action and ensure this driver was never again allowed behind the wheel of a [district] bus,” the spokesperson, Paula Hans, said in a statement.
“The video is incredibly difficult to watch. Riding a bus to and from school should be a happy, enjoyable experience for students,” Hans said. “The behavior and actions of this bus driver are completely unacceptable.”
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