Rock D'Avignon says driving a school bus is the most rewarding job he's ever had. But a recent incident with an alleged student bully in Bridport pushed him to his breaking point.
"This little Mexican girl was getting on the bus. I had just stopped at her house. She didn't even get to the top of the stairs and this girl was screaming from the back of the bus. Telling her to go back from where she came from. Learn to speak English," said D'Avignon, a Bet-cha Transit school bus driver.
He told the student he would not tolerate her racist remarks and reported her to the school. He now says that student's family is out to get him, claiming they reported him for going off route with a 6th grade student aboard. D'Avignon admits stopping at the store was a mistake.
"This day and age, with everyone being politically correct, that's inappropriate behavior. I did not realize that. I realize it now," he said.
D'Avignon says the child is a family friend. He was buying her dinner and she got permission from her mom.
"My boss called me up and he said you are under a two day suspension until we can investigate stopping at the store," said D'Avignon, "And I said, you know what, with all the stress that's going on, let's just make it permanent. I'm done."
It's a decision he now says he regrets after parents told him that the children on his route are devastated by his resignation.
At an emotionally charged school board meeting Tuesday night many of those parents rallied behind the bus driver.
"The fact that my kids will no longer get to spend the morning bus ride with him saddens me," said parent Andrea LaFountain.
"Rock has been there for my son," said parent Ben Kandzior, "He has come to meetings and actually sat down and helped me with it. I have a lot of respect for Rock. I've seen the way he drives and he is very safe."
"We all really like Rock," added Anabel Hernandez, who says she was bullied on the bus, "He is the best bus driver the school has ever had. He makes us all laugh."
But not everyone supports him. One parent says he crossed the line by allegedly asking a student if he had a father at home.
"I do think that there are instances where Rock has overstepped his boundaries, as far as what a bus driver should be saying or asking," said parent Lindsay Carl.
The school board members say ultimately their hands are tied. That's because D'Avignon is an employee of Bet-Cha transit -- not the school district.
"It was not a board decision. It was not an administration decision. It was his decision," said Gail Conley, Addison Central Supervisory Union Superintendent.
"We can share our concerns with Bet-Cha that have been brought to us. But from there, where it goes is up to them," said Brian Desforges, chair of the Bridport school board.
School board members told parents they would discuss the personnel matter further in executive session. D'Avignon admits he could go directly to his employer and ask for his job back but says it's important to him that the superintendent asks the company to hire him back.
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