"Stop the bullying on this bus. We deserve respect ... "
School bus drivers brought their complaints to HISD headquarters, saying enough enough is enough when it comes to how students behave. Wretha Thomas heads the Houston Educational Support Personnel Union. She says she's seen it all on her bus.
"We are having kids that are jumping out of the back of the school bus while buses are moving. We have kids that come on the bus every day smoking marijuana. We have kids on our buses every week fighting."
HISD operates about 1,000 buses that transport about 40,000 students daily. Those buses have video cameras to record any incidents but drivers, like Lizzie Revels, say kids keep acting up, especially on buses that transport students to alternative schools.
"You know, as we travel down the road, they're throwing up gang signs, and people calling in and say they're throwing up gang signs, or they're raising the window down and hollering at people."
And driver Velma Allen says she just had an incident on her bus. She thinks drugs were involved.
"Kid got on the bus this morning just fine, all of a sudden he's sluggish talking. I mean, if I hadn't been there and it had been a sub driver that kid could have died, because I had to call the ambulance to come get him."
Asked about the drivers' complaints, HISD spokesman Jason Spencer says he understands why they're frustrated.
"As any parent or teacher can tell you maintaining order on a school bus, or any group of children, that's a hard job."
Spencer says there are policies in place dealing with bus behavior. He says transportation supervisors have 24 hours to review bus surveillance videos after getting complaints from drivers. Incidents are then reported to schools and possibly HISD police.
Spencer the district has also set up training programs to help drivers better deal with students. They also plan to take another look at the code of Student Conduct:
"To determine if we need more stringent language in there, particularly when it comes to addressing the times when it's appropriate to remove a child from a school bus."
HISD says it has a team of bus safety monitors that can ride along with drivers, but because of budget constraints, they can't put a monitor on every bus. Drivers, meanwhile, are appealing to parents to talk to kids about how to behave on the way to and from school.