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Driver suspended after Johnston school bus overturns

Posted December 1, 2011

— Johnston County Schools has suspended a school bus driver whose bus overturned Tuesday afternoon near Kenly.

Pamela Pierce Harper was distracted by the dozen or so North Johnston High School and North Johnston Middle School students on the bus at the time and lost control of the bus, authorities said. She went off the right side of Oliver Road, over-corrected and drove into a ditch on the left side of the road, causing the bus to overturn.

No serious injuries were reported, but three students were taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital as a precaution.

The State Highway Patrol cited Harper, 43, of Selma, with failure to maintain lane control.

School district spokeswoman Terri Sessoms said Harper is suspended with pay pending an internal review of the incident. She has worked for the district as both a driver and a child nutrition assistant since 1998, Sessoms said.


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  • Nancy Dec 2, 2011

    eyesofgreen, that was my impression too, but they still had to be trained and have a CDL license, which DMV offered those classes free (took a week).

    Part of the problem with unruly kids is a constant change of drivers, but I don't know if that's the case in JoCo or not, I'm sure there are people who drive daily, in addition to their other support staff positions. A sub driver gets the same lack of respect that a sub teacher gets.

  • eyesofgreen Dec 2, 2011

    I know 5+ years ago Johnston County used to force teacher assistants and cafeteria workers to drive the buses also to keep their main job. Guess this is still the case? Sounds like a good reason to find drivers that just want to drive and classroom assistants that just want to be in the classroom.

  • ligonmaterial23 Dec 2, 2011

    I bet she got their attention . lol

  • Nancy Dec 2, 2011

    fl2nc - I was asked by the middle school VP's to be a sub teacher and I laughed! I said "No Way!" and they reasoned that since I could control 60 kids sitting behind me, I would do well as a sub. My reply?

    "I have control as the driver, they're confined to this bus, a classroom is a whole 'nother ball of wax!"

    I had three sisters who taught, I knew better :)

  • fl2nc2ca2md2nc Dec 2, 2011

    Nancy, I like your style. Sounds like more drivers need to follow your lead!

  • Nancy Dec 2, 2011

    And for your amusement (those who drive/drove buses), the longest I sat without moving the bus because of behavior? 30 minutes. And I had the support of my manager in doing so. YOU are the driver, nothing else matters than safe transportation, nothing. That is the reason you were hired after all.

  • Nancy Dec 2, 2011

    And to those saying not to hold the driver accountable, I say you're wrong. And I speak as a former bus driver.

    It is always (regardless of the situation) the drivers responsibility to maintain control of the vehicle they're driving.

    So the kids are out of control. Find a place to safely pull off the road (no matter if it takes miles to do so) and then deal with the kids. You don't put the bus and it's occupants and others sharing the road at risk because you feel the need to pay attention to them vs driving that vehicle.

  • Nancy Dec 2, 2011

    When I drove a bus, I didn't have problems handling behavior issues. I would find a place to pull over (yes sometimes it took a mile or two) and parked the bus. Radioed into the office where I was and why and told the kids to "take 5 in your seats". They knew the bus would not move until the rules were followed. This always happened on the way home - in the morning they're half asleep and behavior was rarely an issue then.

    No yelling, no physical confrontations. Just sit. They knew I was serious. If I cannot drive safely because of their behavior and they aren't safe because they're not seated properly, the bus stopped.

    They want to go home :) They knew I would win every time. They eventually followed the rules.

  • busylady Dec 2, 2011

    Hey cantbtaught.....You are so ignorant it's unreal. You want to fire a driver because the kids are out of control on a bus and she has to look up to see if they are getting out of control. I drive high, middle and elementary. And believe it or not, the middle and the elementary are the worst. The high school students have a lot better manners. It is a very hard job, to try to drive a very large vehicle and control out of control kids on the bus who don't know the meaning of discipline. My own children ride Johnston county buses and they would never dream of acting the way I see a lot of kids act on my routes. Blame the parents not the drivers.

  • kynownc Dec 2, 2011

    I lived in a small county in Kentucky. It was about 30,000 in the county and every school bus had 2 adults on it. One to drive and one to monitor. If Kentucky can afford it, why can't we? Their lottery doesn't support the schools but, I don't think all our lottery money goes to the schools anyway.