A new substitute school bus driver, Dennis Kaliszewski, 60, was fired last week after driving kids home from Pleasant Valley Elementary School in Parma, Ohio.
The 60-year-old driver was only on his second solo shift when an incident involving a young boy with a knife happened on Nov. 14 after school. Kaliszewski’s substitute driver status was revoked the following day by the school district.
Kaliszewski told Cleveland.com that he was headed to his first afternoon stop when “it seemed as though the entire bus of students started to yell that a young boy had a knife in his possession.”
Kaliszewski pulled over and told the boy, between the ages of 8 and 10, to give him the knife, saying that the bus won’t move and that he would call the police if he didn’t comply. But the boy eventually went to the front of the bus and handed the pocketknife to Kaliszewski, and the bus went on its way.
Kaliszewski said he doesn’t believe the kid was threatening the other students on the bus, just showing off the knife.
“I feel I defused the situation and eliminated any danger,” he said.
Kaliszewski said a parent at the last stop asked why the bus took so long. “At that I told her, when all the students were away from the door, that I was a substitute and I had confiscated a knife from one of the students,” he said in a letter to district Superintendent Jeffrey Graham. “I didn’t want to lie about it knowing all the students were previously yelling his name and figured they would all go running home and telling their parents. Plus I was not given instructions on what to say or not to say other then the truth.”
While he made the rest of his stops, Kaliszewski said he told his supervisor he needed to discuss a situation with her. When he returned to the district garage, Kaliszewski said he tried to look for his supervisor but she was done for the day. So Kaliszewski went home as well, then told his training supervisor about what occurred on the bus and also documented it in a report and formal letter.
“Being a caring contentious [sic] person, I thought I did all the correct things to defuse the situation, keep the students safe as safety is my main objective and doing all the things I was taught,” writing in a letter to Cleveland.com. “I reported to both my manager and higher ups that I had things that needed to be addressed. I was not trained in proper procedure once an incident has been resolved, in regards to what to say and what not to say.”
Cleveland.com reported that Kaliszewski was called into a meeting the next morning after the incident, with two supervisors and a representative of the district’s safety and security department, and was fired without getting a chance to defend himself.
Failure to follow district protocol was the reason for his termination, The Blaze notes.
District spokeswoman Erin Gadd declined to offer Cleveland.com with information on the protocol saying school board policy doesn’t permit talking of personnel matters.
However, Kaliszewski told Cleveland.com his three months of training taught him in case of such an incident, he’s supposed to stop the bus, tell riders there are mechanical problems and then contact police.
The reason he didn’t follow the protocol when the student had the pocketknife, Kaliszewski said he wasn’t sure the kid had a knife until it was given to him.
“To me, as an adult, I think I’d look like an idiot if I called police and it turned out to be a rubber knife,” he told Cleveland.com. “For using common sense, I lose my job.”
Kaliszewski told Cleveland.com he thinks another reason for his termination is retaliation over angry telephone calls the district received from worried parents. Gadd, the district spokeswoman, confirmed at least one parent did contact the district about the incident.
Gadd refused to reveal the boy’s age or grade, and she didn’t want to say whether he is facing disciplinary action.
Kaliszewski said he has reached out to a lawyer, hoping to get his job back and clear his name after being “unjustly relieved” of his position.