Bus driver who abandoned students tells his story

Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- An Anchorage school bus driver who walked away from unruly charges last week has spoken out about his actions.

Michael Hilborn said Monday he was frustrated by an alleged lack of support from administrators at North Star Elementary as well as bad behavior from students. Hilborn, 37, turned off his bus along his route Nov. 20 and walked away, leaving about 18 students to walk home from a busy Spenard intersection.

''I snapped,'' Michael Hilborn told the Anchorage Daily News. ''I'm sorry I just left the kids. It's never appropriate for the adult in charge to leave children unattended.''

Hilborn said he was assigned to the North Star Elementary route Nov. 18. He had shuttled students from the school in 1999 and found many of them rowdy, he said.

''I have taken my bus back to North Star Elementary probably 30 to 40 times over the years, and no one has been available to help me with the kids.''

North Star principal Myrna Moulton could not be reached for comment.

Hilborn said students were disrespectful, cussing at each other, shrugging off his warnings that he would write them up.

Bus conduct reports are ''tools of last resort for a bus driver,'' he said. ''If the students don't care if they get a conduct report, then what else can a bus driver do?'' Hilborn believes part of the problem is that North Star is too lax about its conduct reports.

Steve Kalmes, director of transportation for the Anchorage School District, said last week that North Star administrators follow through with conduct reports and take them seriously. Moulton spent a large part of last week investigating bad behavior by students on buses and also sent a letter home to parents.

On the day he left, Hilborn found a seating chart in the bus and asked the roughly 40 students aboard to sit in their assigned seats. The children started arguing over the seats.

The noise level rose. Hilborn pulled over twice and turned the engine off, he and school officials said. ''The thought of taking the students back to the school didn't occur to me, because every time I've ever taken them back, there was no one there to help me,'' he said.

Hilborn missed a stop. The students teased that he didn't know how to drive. ''There had been a couple of fights on the bus at this point,'' Hilborn said. ''There had been so many safety violations. Every time I looked in the student mirror, I'd see this student jumping up and down in the aisle. Students were walking in the aisle, kind of like they were guards patrolling a fence line.''

Hilborn said he reprimanded one girl by name and told her to sit down. The girl cried. The kids started cussing at Hilborn.

Partway down a street, with two more drop-offs to go, Hilborn stopped the bus, turned the key to the lock position and picked up the radio. ''I quit,'' he told the dispatcher. ''Send another driver.''

Hilborn stayed within eyesight of the bus, he said. After the students got off, he returned it to headquarters.

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