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A plea for school bus driver who made rescue
Tempting to steal this one for a scenarios & situations topic or make a poll for this, but since Brad just made a new one tonight I'll resist temptation.
Based on just what is contained in the article, what do you think? My thoughts after the break.
A plea for school bus driver who made rescue
District 214 debates when to break the rules
Sitting in a car with a gun to her head, Teresa Kamieniak says she waited for the perfect opportunity to escape.
Two long hours.
When she saw the passing Prospect High-bound school bus - a yellow fortress she saw as too big for her armed, estranged husband to take on - she leapt from her car and pounded on its door.
The driver opened it and let a frantic Kamieniak on board, at once becoming a saving grace and violating safety procedure enough to lose a chunk of her school routes.
That bus driver saved her life and deserves to have her whole job back, Kamieniak told Northwest Suburban High School District 214 board members Thursday.
"I stand before you tonight only because of one woman. That woman opened her door and her heart to me," Kamieniak said, her voice breaking as she gestured to the misty-eyed woman. "My children would not be celebrating Mother's Day. They would be putting flowers on my grave. There is no doubt."
Her comments - flanked by ones from fellow bus drivers, the driver herself and the mother of a teen on the bus - shaped the latest emotional chapter in a bizarre story that's gripped a community, opened an argument about breaking the rules and, in many minds, cast the bus driver as a hero.
Hours after the April 26 incident, Juliusz Kamieniak was found asleep in his estranged wife's car with a gun, nylon cord and duct tape. He's being held on $2 million bond.
Most who spoke Thursday urged the board to reinstate Laidlaw driver Paula Morales, who was barred from District 214's routes within hours.
Mom Mary Beth Scherer, though, applauded District 214 for putting kids' safety first.
"There has been so much controversy over this, and, quite frankly, I'm shocked. I don't see the dilemma," said Scherer, who says the situation easily could have ended in tragedy. "I just wanted to thank you."
Several board members said Friday they were startled by the unexpected testimony, and the majority said they would not object to having officials reconsider the situation.
"I was moved by the comments," President Lenore Bragaw said. "I want to do some looking into it. I don't like to be seen as harsh or punitive or uncaring. On the other hand, we have kids' safety that we have to be responsible for. It's difficult."
Prosecutors say Juliusz Kamieniak waited in his wife's car that morning, grabbing her hair and wielding a gun when she got in.
The two drove to Mount Prospect, where they stopped to talk. The whole time, Kamieniak said, she was waiting for a chance to get away.
The mom of a District 214 student herself, she said she "honestly calculated there would be no students" on the bus because of a modified schedule that day.
"I was surprised when there were," she said, referring to the four teens who'd already been picked up.
But whatever the outcome, she said Morales will "always be my angel."
Morales said she figured Kamieniak, a teacher who says she was wearing her ID badge, was a mom trying to get her late teen on board.
Policy dictates she should have directed Kamieniak to the side window to talk. Instead, she opened the door.
Morales radioed dispatch to call police and, she says, drove immediately away and "got as far away as I could."
"I would never, ever place a child in danger," she told the school board. "That was not my intention. I understand both sides of the coin. Truly I do. I'm a mom myself. ... But there are things that happen, and you can't plan for them."
Juliusz Kamieniak drove off when his wife approached the bus - but what might have happened had he not is what some say makes the situation so sticky.
"Her husband in theory could have followed her to the bus with a gun. I think it did put kids at risk," board Vice President Miriam "Mimi" Cooper said. "Of course, the result is important, that somebody's life perhaps was saved. You can't look the other way on that. But I don't know that that excuses the safety issue."
Cooper, who says she plans to look further into the matter, said she's not sure what she would have done in the same situation - but some fellow bus drivers sort of do.
"We probably would have done the same thing," driver Georgiana LaBrun said.
She and others said Morales is a good driver and a victim of an unfortunate situation - and should be able to drive for some 214 schools, even if banned at Prospect.
Morales still does have a job with Laidlaw, and is picking up routes elsewhere.
It was unclear Friday whether the invoked district policy that's keeping her from district routes has an expiration date.
Board members Cooper, Bragaw, Leslie Pinney and Bob Zimmanck said they would not be opposed to having administrators reconsider the situation.
Member Bill Dussling, though, said he's comfortable with the decision that's already been made - particularly, he said, in light of Scherer's genuine thank you.
"I can understand what she [Morales] did," Dussling said. Yet "one of the rules was broken. I'm sorry that it happened that way. But to say that's OK in this circumstance - why have the rule?"
The clincher for me in this is the woman was wearing a teacher's ID badge. It may be against the rules to open the bus door to a teacher, but that throws it for me. Give the driver a Gold Star, a slap on the wrist and be done with it locally. Then make sure every school is alerted a copycat might use this tactic to gain entry to a bus in the future thanks to it making national media.
Take the ID badge out and that's one fired school bus driver. I feel for Mrs. Kamieniak and I hate it when people avoid helping others. That school bus driver already has charges under their protective care though.
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