L.I. School Bus Driver Says He Was Fired After Pointing Out Safety Hazard

Submitted by New Jersey Bus Accident Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

EAST PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A school bus driver said he saw danger and spoke up, and while parents applauded him, his bus company also fired him.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, Long Island school bus driver Willie Toohey claimed he got fired because he brought a safety concern to the wrong person.

“The kids can get hit by a car or a truck,” Toohey said.

Toohey said he could not stand by watching what he called an accident waiting to happen.

“I’m seeing kids walking into the path of trucks that are coming into the loop,” Toohey said.

While buses line up at Saxton Middle School in East Patchogue, children – Toohey said — dart around delivery and maintenance trucks allowed into the bus loop.

He spoke up last year, but claimed nothing changed. So this time, he complained to the district superintendent, and he then got fired.

“I always thought part of my job was the safety of the kids,” Toohey said.

His employer, Montauk Bus Service Inc., refused to comment. Bu the company issued this termination letter citing “serious misconduct.”

The company said Toohey “disregarded policy” that “all drivers are to report any and all concerns to their immediate supervisor, not school district personnel.” He didn’t follow chain of command protocol, the company said.

But Toohey said the decision was unfair.

“Don’t fire me for speaking out about a safety issue. All I’m looking for is vindication,” he said. “Why would you fire someone speaking out about the safety of the kids?”

Parents were also trying to get the beloved driver’s job back.

“The kids love him,” said parent Ginamarie Mackey. “I’m heartbroken because, you know, he didn’t deserve it.”

Toohey contacted attorney Kenneth Mollins, who said workers who report law-breaking bosses are protected — but not in this case.

“Here, we don’t have an employee versus an employer. Here, we have employee speaking out to protect the students on his bus,” Mollins said. “That takes him out of the scope of the whistle-blower statute.

Still, parents do not understand why it matters who was told when safety is at issue. They said the school bus loop is unique, since buses share an entrance with trucks.

The Patchogue-Medford school superintendent said the district addresses all safety issues immediately, and said he personally has not seen a problem. But Toohey said from behind the school bus wheel, he has.

School district officials would not comment on Toohey’s termination of employment because the district did not fire him.

Toohey said he took his concerns directly to the school district because it offered an open-door policy on safety matters.

Originally published here by newyork.cbslocal.com.

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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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