It is easy to say that Shawnee Keels, the bus monitor who assaulted a developmentally disabled child on a school bus, is the sole perpetrator of the crime. According to the law, she is. The court found her guilty and no one else. But the incident points to two things: Hiring problems within the public school system’s Department of Transportation and questions regarding the school system’s stealthy conduct after the fact.
Although one individual carried out the preposterous crime, to completely deny, as Superintendent of Schools Morton Sherman has done, that Keels’ transgressions are not indicative of a systemic problem within the public schools’ Department of Transportation is absurd. Last October the same month as the assault and battery kindergarten students were more than once dropped off by bus drivers in the wrong neighborhood to wander aimlessly. While those actions were not criminal, the behavior was far from satisfactory for employees paid to look after the well-being of taxpayers’ children.
Of course, these instances do not indict the entire fleet of ACPS bus drivers and monitors. They are, however, symptomatic of poor hiring practices, bad training or ineffective supervision by the transportation department. If Keels did not know her boundaries, as the superintendent alluded, her boundlessness should have been vetted before she hit a child not afterward.
Further, parents have the right to know about neglectful or harmful incidents occurring on the very vessel that begins the transfer of student oversight from parent to school. Despite the incident’s isolation to one bus, its effects are system-wide.
Do Metrorail’s problems not affect every single rider, even those who were not on the train that crashed and killed nine people last summer?
School personnel information is protected by state law. However, there are ways to alert parents of frankly scary issues affecting their children without causing a panic or revealing employee names. If Keels’ actions were blatant enough for the school to fire her after a short internal investigation they were serious enough to tell parents about five months ago, rather than hoping no one would find out.
Keels’ prosecution, taken with other gaffes on the school bus, is a black eye to the ACPS transportation department. The way it was handled afterward bruises the reputation of a relatively transparent school system as well. One individual carried out the crime but it was the irresponsibility of her employers that allowed it to happen.