COLUMBIA, S.C. — Richland County School District Two held a special called meeting on May 7 to discuss the school bus hijacking on Thursday and security measures on district school buses.
The meeting was held behind closed doors, but afterward the board spoke to the media. Board chair James Manning said, "I want to express how thankful we are that the students and the bus driver are safe."
Manning said many are still coming to terms with what happened. "The moment is etched into our memories and will be for a very long time."
On May 6, a military trainee hijacked a school bus and held 18 students and the driver against their will for several minutes. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott identified the Fort Jackson trainee as Jovan Callazo from New Jersey.
Manning says, "Yesterday's incident was the worst nightmare for parents, for the school district employees, first responders and us as school board members."
"The first phone calls we received yesterday, they tremendously shocked us. I don't think you can ever be prepared for that phone call, where you have an armed person that has hijacked the bus," Manning said.
The district is praising the bus driver for his calm response during the situation. District superintendent Dr. Baron Davis said, "We have let the bus driver know how much love and support he is receiving from the Richland two community and from beyond."
While the driver isn't back at work, he isn't far from the thoughts of those involved. "He did have an opportunity to reunite with his students this afternoon before they boarded their bus home," says Dr. Davis.
The district say the students met with the school's learning support services team, which includes counsellors and psychologists. He says the Forest Lake Elementary administrator rode the bus today with students and will do so again on Monday.
"Today majority of students returned to school, the school staff focused on making sure that they felt safe and supported," said Dr. Davis.