Following Hasani Wesley trial, a look at how bus drivers are monitored

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Monday, state officials said that the plea deal, which led to Billy Bailey admitting that he struck and killed 11-year-old Hasani Wesley with his Jeep, was a result of their witnesses being discredited.

This, they say, is because 4,000 pages of documents were released by Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. In those documents, it showed that Wesley’s bus driver, Stephanie Fulton, had been fired in 2008, then re-hired six months later. They said Fulton had been cited multiple times by the school for speeding the wrong way in a roundabout, running a stop sign and hitting a school bus; all while driving a school bus.

The state says that on Dec. 19, 2012, Fulton turned the bus around after Wesley missed his initial stop to pick him up on the way back. That, they say, is a violation of school policy. Wesley was then hit and killed.

School officials say Fulton is still employed as a bus driver in Forsyth County.

In North Carolina, drivers must pass certain requirements imposed by the DMV. They must also get their CDL license. At that time, if they are hired by a school system, they are issued a pocket card, which is regulated by the school system.

A pocket card is proof of their credentials. However, it can also be issued points as a result of violations. These include anything from running stop signs, to at-fault accidents, to eating on the school bus.

In Forsyth County, the bus drivers are issued points based on individual events. However, school supervisors make the determination as to how many points each violation should entail.

“The point system could be a good idea, but obviously they’re not assessing proper pointage,” said Vicki Watkins, who is planning to move to Forsyth County.

“They shouldn’t be able to just drive and then the supervisor, maybe just playing favoritism or whatever, and not charging them with the seriousness of the crime,” said Memphis Ritchens, who has a child in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system.

If a driver gets nine points, they can be terminated.  However, in Forsyth County, the points expire after a 12 month period.

“Oh no, oh no. Twelve months later, no. They all of a sudden got great common sense and able to make judgment calls? No, I don’t think so. Not as an adult,” said Watkins.

“It’s like baseball. I mean you get three strikes and you’re out. They don’t erase the first strike,” said Vicki’s husband, Gordon. Gordon said he is a former high school coach and bus driver.

Guilford County School officials say they too use pocket cards, but in a different format. They use a breakdown of three sections. They are (in points) 1-5, 6-20 and 21+. If a violation causes a driver to fall between 1 and 5, the violation will be documented, and the driver could have to go through DMV re-training. A violation, or violations, in the 6-20 point range will result in a suspension. If a driver reaches 21 points or more, they are immediately suspended and recommended for termination.

Guilford County School officials say if they receive a complaint about a driver, it will be documented and brought up in their next evaluation.

Points expire after two years in Guilford County.

In both counties, if a driver gets into an accident or has a violation in their personal vehicle, they are required to report it to the school system. School officials then decide what type of disciplinary action to take. A DUI or DWI would result in immediate termination.

Billy Bailey pled down to a misdemeanor charge of death by a motor vehicle. He is currently serving 30 days in jail. He was sentenced to 60 days, but 30 of them are suspended; meaning he will only serve them if he violates his probation. His supervised probation will last for a period of 30 months. He is not allowed to drive during that time. Bailey will also be required to complete 240 hours of community service while on probation.