Gun scare halts Explorer K-8 school bus; student suspended

BROOKSVILLE — Bus No. 48 from Explorer K-8 in Spring Hill usually rumbles onto Augustine Road by 4:40 p.m.

By 10 minutes to 5 on Thursday, Samantha Baumstark knew something was wrong. Within the next half hour, the mother of two heard a phrase that turned her cold: Gun on the bus.

"You could imagine my heart hit the floor and I was shaking," Baumstark, whose son and daughter ride Bus 48, recalled Friday.

A fifth-grade student brought a toy pistol that shoots plastic pellets called an airsoft gun onto the bus, prompting the driver to pull over and call the Sheriff's Office, principal Ray Pinder said.

The boy was suspended for 10 days and could face expulsion, Pinder said.

Baumstark feels the district should have notified parents in a more timely manner, leaving them to fear the worst. She said she called the district's transportation office and was told the bus had probably broken down.

At about 5:25 p.m., the cell phone of another parent waiting for the bus on Augustine Road rang. The student on the other end said the bus was sitting on the side of Landover Boulevard. Deputies were there, the girl said, because someone had brought a gun on the bus.

Baumstark's fiance, Danny Cimino, drove toward Landover. A frantic Baumstark called the transportation office again said she was told that "the Sheriff's Office had let the bus go."

Cimino came back to the stop as the bus pulled up. A wave of relief washed over Baumstark as she watched her children — 7-year-old second-grader Allan and 6-year-old first-grader Keyara — walk down the bus steps. Cimino asked the driver what had happened.

"She told him the kids would tell him and shut the door," Baumstark said.

Allan did just that. He said he saw the boy hiding a gun between his legs and told the driver, who pulled over. Allan said the boy and the boy's brother were yelling at him to shut up and stop lying.

"I was scared," Allan said.

When deputies arrived, the student turned over the gun. Allan picked up two plastic pellets from the bus floor that may have been fired from the gun and gave them to deputies, who took the student with them.

Linda Smith, the district's transportation director, said the district's safety plan calls for the school to notify parents when there is an incident on a bus. There are too many buses and too few staffers dealing with issues that arise during the afternoon commute for her department to tackle the task, she said.

"There's no way we can sit down and make all the calls," Smith said.

The transportation department called Explorer and notified an assistant principal about the incident. Pinder said he headed to the scene but by the time he got there the bus had already been released.

The bus driver followed proper procedure, Smith said.

It's unclear whether the boy actually fired the gun. Baumstark said she was told by deputies Friday that a girl on the bus felt a pinch and had a mark on her arm but that no one saw the boy point and shoot.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Lt. Cinda Moore did not return messages from the Times on Friday.

Baumstark contends she should have had the opportunity to pick up her children from the scene. The brother of the boy who brought the gun had bullied her son in the past and could have retaliated against him for notifying the bus driver and helping deputies, she said.

"I would have never let my son back on the bus for the ride home," she said.

She said her children won't be riding the bus anymore.

But Allan will be recognized on Monday with a certificate and some "paw prints," Explorer's currency given as a reward to students who set a good example, Pinder said.

"We're proud of him, and he did the right thing by letting people know," he said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Gun scare halts Explorer K-8 school bus; student suspended 12/18/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 18, 2009 8:15pm]

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