Bus driver’s suspension ‘nonsensical’

Ashburton Guardian 11 Aug 2012
Methven school bus driver Fred Rijbroek was laying low yesterday as debate over suspension from his job raged around the country. Many on national talkback radio and on Facebook came out in support of the 63-year-old, who was suspended for one week on full pay, after he physically lifted a boy on to his seat. He will return to the job on Monday. Even Family First launched into the debate, saying the suspension was “nonsensical”, and such cases would make parents and teachers “too afraid to administer any physical control or restraint of children”. Mr Rijbroek, at home in Methven yesterday, said he had had various media contact him, but had been told by his employer Methven Travel not to speak about the case. He confirmed the incident occurred as had already been reported though, that a five-year-old was being “hyperactive and boisterous”, and that he picked the boy up by the middle and “firmly placed” him on his seat. He had earlier told the boy to sit in his allocated window seat, but the boy wanted to continue playing. Mr Rijbroek told him he would have to sit down when the bus doors were shut, but the boy started kicking his school friends and upset a girl by taking her book. After Mr Rijbroek took the book off the boy and put him on to his seat, he behaved well for the rest of the journey.

Meanwhile, Methven educators are comfortable with the suspension, and are pleased correct procedure was followed to deal with the incident. Principal Chris Murphy at Methven Primary School, where the student attends, said a Methven Area Bus Group representative had met with him a few days after the incident to explain the investigation which was under way. “I think it is a very stressful situation being responsible for that number of kids, and driving a bus,” Mr Murphy said. However, having to put hands on a child should be a last resort. “At the end of the day, students’ welfare and students’ safety is the prime concern,” he said.