Dayton Public Schools buses.

Dayton school bus cameras not working; no video of alleged assault

Camera on bus failed to record incident in which 5-year-old says driver slapped her thigh.

The Dayton Public School district is reviewing cameras on all school buses after a Dayton Daily News investigation found an alleged assault on a 5-year-old girl by a female bus driver was not caught on video because of a malfunctioning camera.

It is not known how many district’s 115 buses are affected by the malfunction. District officials said this week they are checking all the buses and had found and fixed a problem on two of them, including the one where the alleged assault took place. They said they are working with a company on fixing any problems that turn up.

After being contacted by the Daily News this week, the school district said it placed the bus driver on paid leave and is investigating a Sept. 24 incident in which a mother told police the driver cursed at, threatened and slapped her kindergartner daughter.

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The mother, Maggie Hiles, filed a report with Dayton police that day. She also complained to a DPS transportation supervisor, she said. 

The police report says the bus bringing her two daughters from Horace Mann Elementary School was an hour and a half late. When they arrived at the bus stop, her daughters said the driver “was very angry and yelled at the children on the bus,” saying things like “sit the (expletive) down” and “I’ll break your other arm (the girl had an arm in a cast).”

Her 5-year-old daughter said that after she was yelled at, “the driver turned around and slapped her on her right thigh. (The girl) stated that it did not hurt and she had no injuries,” according to the police report.

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Dayton police officials said the case was closed because the description of the incident did not meet the definition of a crime.

In an interview with the Daily News, Hiles said her daughters and the other kids on the bus were “freaked out.”

“There were two other kids that got off the bus with them at that stop. They were crying because the bus driver scared them,” she said.

Mother Maggie Hiles shared this photo of herself and her daughters, ages 5 and 6. Hiles says her 5-year-old was slapped and threatened by a Dayton Public Schools bus driver, but the bus camera malfunctioned and there is no evidence. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Staff Writer

The Daily News obtained the police report this week. District officials said they were unaware of the police report until the newspaper provided them with a copy on Wednesday.

“Today, Oct. 3rd, we reviewed the details of the alleged incident from a Dayton Police Department report,” the district said in a statement. “We are investigating the claims made by two students, interviewing other possible witnesses and we are reviewing a statement from our driver, who was not interviewed by Dayton Police.”

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The Daily News requested a copy of the bus video, but the district says no such video exists because of a malfunction in the bus camera.

“When asked for video from the bus, we now know signals on the bus cameras did not indicate there was a problem recording video,” the statement says. “We have since investigated and discovered two cameras in our fleet were not working properly. We have corrected the problem.”

Hiles said she spoke to a DPS transportation supervisor the day of the incident. He called her back three days later and said he looked into it but there was nothing they could do because there was no evidence due to the malfunctioning camera. He also told her cameras were malfunctioning on the district’s other new buses, she said.

The school board voted last year to replace its fleet of 115 buses.

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Cameras provide proof if something happens, “so it’s not a he-said, she-said” situation, Hiles said. “They all need to work at all times or we don’t need them.”

DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli has named improving customer service as a priority for the district.

At a recent community event, parents identified the attitude of bus drivers and school staff as needed improvements in the district.

“The bus system, and the way the bus drivers talk to children and disrespect them, that’s one thing (the district can work on),” DPS parent Tori Ball said.

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Hiles said she has stopped sending her children on the bus, though she has had no other problems with the district

“My girls’ school, there’s no complaint there, it’s an amazing school. All the teachers are fantastic,” Hiles said. “This was my first bad experience and I want it to be the last one any kid has to go through.”

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