ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. - Parents fear for their children's safety because they say their children's school bus to Southport Middle School in St. Lucie county is overcrowded.
“I’m very frustrated. I’m very sad," said Christine Lascala, who has a sixth grade student at Southport Middle School.
“It’s not safe," said Melissa Farley, who also has a daughter in sixth grade at Southport. "I would not want my child or anybody else’s child to be put in harms way.”
Farley and Lascala said the bus, route 2932, has been overcrowded since the beginning of the school year.
"She’d been complaining that when she’d go to get on the bus, the bus driver would start yelling at her, saying that she needed to sit down," Farley said. "And there were no seats for her to sit down. My child is a larger child, so there was no place for her to sit. She couldn’t fit three to a seat."
"My daughter is 71 pounds. She can fit three to a seat, but when you have a book bag that’s 35 pounds hanging off the back and her rear end is off in the center aisle, that doesn’t make things comfortable," Lascala said.
However, when Lascala was headed out to run errands this morning, she said she witnessed a child sitting on the floor of the back of her daughter’s bus, so she snapped a photo. She said a different bus labeled 2431 picked her daughter up that morning with the same bus driver on the same route.
“It’s not my child that’s sitting on the floor today," she said. "But that doesn’t mean that next month, it won’t be my child or her friend.”
Inside that same bus this morning, Farley said her daughter took pictures of a child in the aisle and another child on someone else's lap.
"It’s unsafe for our children," she said. "And as a parent, we’re concerned. We’re very concerned."
Farley and Lascala said they’ve contacted the school and the district transportation office multiple times, including visiting the transportation office in person to try to get a resolution, but they’re being told the bus isn’t at capacity.
The district spokesperson said the bus has 46 riders and the capacity is 65. Based on those numbers, two seats on the bus could have three people per seat.
She said the transportation office looked through video of the bus from this morning and didn't find any evidence of overcrowding. She said one of the pictures the student took shows a moment captured on bus camera video when a student couldn’t find a seat, but the bus driver helped that child fit three to a seat before moving the bus.
District policy is a bus won’t move if a child is in the aisle. She said in another photo, the bus' stop arms are out. She said the school district is committed to student safety and if anything was concerning, they'd be on top of it.
However, parents say pictures prove an additional route is needed to get these kids to and from school as safely as possible, which is what the school district says is always their goal.
“If this bus, gets into an accident, there are going to be a lot of children who are going to be hurt," Lascala said.