Rise in conflicts with unruly parents has CMS officials concerned

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials say they’ve seen a spike in cases of parents confronting a bus driver, or even a student.

Channel 9 education reporter Jonathan Lowe learned these type of confrontations aren’t just happening on the bus.

The morning of Oct. 18 was like any other -- or so a 72-year-old CMS bus driver thought. That was until police say she had a violent encounter with parent Regina Fields.

“She just ran up to the bus in her bath robe, and the last kid was getting on the bus and that’s when she threw the Clorox,” said the driver.

Ongoing fear for her safety is why she asked Channel 9 not to show her face or use her name.

“I couldn’t see,” she said.

She told Lowe she had burns on her face, though they were minimal.

“Mentally, I’m managing,” she said. “I’m still uncomfortable with issues that happened.”

And, she says, she is not the only one traumatized.

“I know the parents are afraid and the kids are afraid,” she said.

School officials say this attack was just one example of an alarming trend this year. Adam Johnson is executive director of transportation for CMS. Lowe asked if CMS has seen an increase this school year in the amount of people who are getting out of control with drivers.

“Just in the last few months that we’ve been back in session, we have seen an uptick in parents that have approached the driver, and in most cases, it’s to try to confront another student,” Johnson replied.

Channel 9 has reported on several incidents in our area.

Johnson said he’s never seen this many of these kind of incidents in such a short period of time.

“I have seen situations where parents have approached drivers and boarded the bus, yes, not that many in such a short period of time,” Johnson said.

Johnson says while de-escalation is a regular part of driver training, the district’s transportation office put out updated guidance in September in light of the increase in bus assaults involving parents.

“Certainly don’t engage in a back and forth with the parent, or citizens, if they approach the bus,” Johnson said. “Certainly advise them that they can contact their transportation office.”

But the confrontations aren’t just on buses. Through a public records request, Channel 9 obtained a list from CMS of ten adults banned from campuses and CMS property for a year.

  • Roan Sterling is charged with being intoxicated and disruptive, and resisting a public officer at Hough High School back on Sept. 9. The arrest warrant says he got into a fight with a coach.
  • Belinda Frausto is charged with disorderly conduct after Ridge Road administrators said she yelled and cursed at a student and became belligerent toward them while in the main office on Sept. 22.

Whether it’s on a campus or on a moving vehicle, CMS officials are reinforcing their district-wide zero tolerance policy that doesn’t just go for students.

“In these certain cases, parents may be prosecuted for trespassing on the school bus,” Johnson said.

The bus driver Channel 9 spoke to is reminding parents there are better routes for conflict resolution.

“It’s just a conversation, calm yourself and talk about it -- number one pray about it, so that you get that direction,” she said.

(VIDEO: SC bus driver commended by district for quick action during fight)

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.