Protesting school bus driver loses job

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - A bus driver has lost his job after being accused of taking a young girl off her route and back to his home.

Last month, several Houston Independent School District bus drivers gathered in front of district headquarters to protest what they felt was unsafe behavior by students. Several bus drivers complained the district was not doing enough to punish students who engaged in unsafe behavior. HISD bus driver Charles Primes was among those protesting.

"Kids are jumping out of the bus, fighting," Primes told Local 2 during the April protest.

Less than a month after that protest, HISD officials said the mother of middle school girl filed a complaint against Primes.

The district's Jason Spencer said the girl's mother told HISD transportation officials that on May 3, her daughter was the only student left on the bus when Primes made a stop at his own home.

"(He) had asked her daughter if she had wanted to come inside the home while he changed clothes," Spencer said, recounting the mother's complaint.

Spencer said the girl declined and was left on the bus alone while Primes changed clothes.

"She was very concerned," Spencer said." Her daughter was distraught over what happened. She knew that that was not proper, so she was scared."

Spencer said after receiving the complaint, the district retrieved footage from security cameras on-board the bus driven by Primes. Spencer said the video confirmed the student's story.

Spencer said cameras on Prime's bus showed other incidents. Spencer said video from the bus driven by Primes also shows an incident on April 25 involving the same student, who again, was the last child on the bus. Spencer said that incident shows Primes stopping at a Jack in-the-Box.

"(He) handed the child some money and told her to go inside and get some food," said Spencer.

Spencer said video also shows a third incident of Primes talking on his cellphone while on a school bus.

"He was driving the bus at the time?" asked Local 2 investigator Robert Arnold.

"Bus was in motion," said Spencer.

"Were there children on board?" Arnold asked.

"Yes," Spencer said.

Spencer said unauthorized stops and the use of a cellphone were the reasons for Primes termination.

"Our bus drivers are entrusted with a very precious commodity, which is our children," said Spencer. "This is clearly a violation of that trust."

Local 2 tried to speak with the union representing Primes and other HISD bus drivers. Union officials declined to comment citing their own ongoing investigation into the matter.

Primes has 30 days to appeal his termination.

HISD officials said they will also be forwarding the findings of its internal investigation to the Harris County District Attorney's Office to consider whether any of these actions violated the law.

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