DPS provides more details on school bus fight; 2 employees remain on leave

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DENVER -- On Tuesday, Denver Public Schools provided more information about a fight between a parent and a DPS employee that occurred aboard a school bus last week.

Video shows the fight between a parent and a DPS Student Transportation employee. It occurred Sept. 18 in the 2900 block of North Kearney Street in North Park Hill.

The parent, Brandi Martin, was arrested for investigation of third-degree assault of an at-risk adult because the employee is more than 70 years old.

Parents who witnessed the incident say Martin was defending herself. However, the driver and a DPS paraprofessional who was also aboard the bus were not charged. Both employees were put on administrative leave on Monday.

On Tuesday, DPS spokesperson Will Jones said that according to the two employees, they were trying to "address some behavioral issues of some of the students on the bus."

The driver stopped the bus twice to address the issues. The second stop was near a bus stop where several parents were waiting for their children.

The parents learned the bus was nearby, so they went to that location.

"Some parents wanted the driver and paraprofessional to release the children right then," Jones said. "Transportation policy is that our buses are an extension of our classrooms. The driver and paraprofessional must ensure that they only release kids to their parents. The driver and paraprofessional say that they were trying to explain this to the parents so that they could release the kids. Unfortunately, the situation escalated."

The DPS Department of Safety is investigating the incident. It is reviewing footage from a camera inside the bus.

Jones added that bus drivers have the discretion to determine if and when parents can board a bus.

The students on the bus were traveling from Denver Green School Northfield in Stapleton.

In a letter to families, DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova said she was upset by the way the incident was handled and apologized.

READ: Full letter to DGS Northfield families

"It is clear to me that in looking at an incident that happened last week, with students riding our school bus home from school, we fell far short of our standards in caring for our children," Cordova said in the letter.

The superintendent added that she reviewed the video from the camera on the bus.

"An investigation is still underway, but it’s clear this situation never should have escalated to the point that it did. Our bus aide was on the back of the bus talking to a small group of students about behavior that the aide felt was too loud and disruptive. That conversation escalated to the point where students were texting their parents with concerns about the situation. And it’s distressing to me that it reached that point," she said.

Cordova said DPS staff did not effectively deescalate the situation.

"As a result, the DGS students and parents experienced a traumatic event when students were not released quickly enough from the bus and a staff member was injured in a resulting physical altercation," she said.

Cordova also promised the district would strengthen its training with transportation staff regarding deescalation strategies.

Finally, she said families could speak with her about the incident on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the school's cultural festival.

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