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Limestone County School District releases video of bus driver talking on cell phone

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - The Limestone County School District released video Tuesday showing a school bus driver operating the bus while talking on a cell phone.

Rusty Bates, the Director of Transportation for the district, said the video is public record. It shows 35-year-veteran bus driver Debbie Hardaway talking on her cell phone on two occasions in March. It was brought to Bates' attention by an anonymous caller.

He said once he checked the video he found two infractions as well as video of Hardaway's husband conducting pre-trip inspections which Hardaway is supposed to do.

"We needed to correct some things that were going on," said Bates.

The video was captured by cameras installed on the bus. The district has spent $74,000 installing cameras on every bus.

"We pull video from time to time on drivers and watch and see what they're doing," said Bates.

Hardaway was suspended for five days without pay.

WHNT News 19's Beth Jett spoke to Hardaway on the phone. She tearfully said she made a big mistake and served her suspension. She added she would never do anything to hurt a child and plans to drive next year for the district.

Bates said drivers are required to undergo three training classes each year. The most recent class was in January during which the district emphasized that cell phone use was strictly forbidden while operating a school bus.

"We gave our drivers forewarning at that meeting that we were serious about this. The rule has always been around," said Bates.

Bates said the drivers go 126 routes every day, picking up school children and returning them home.

"Our drivers are very safe," said Bates. "Safety is our number one concern."