ST. PETERSBURG — Officials are investigating a Pinellas County school bus driver who made 24 students get off her bus 10 blocks from Lealman Innovation Academy on Tuesday morning. The driver told a dispatcher she suspected someone poured chemicals into the vehicle's engine, making her sick.
Angela Williams, 53, called 911 around 7:35 a.m. to report the chemical smell on her bus, also telling the dispatcher it had happened before and it wasn't being done by the students.
"I feel that somebody's pouring some kind of chemical on my bus," she said on the call. "I feel like my life is threatened."
Also while on the call, Williams said she has had issues with others at the school district's bus compound on 49th Street S.
When the dispatcher asked Williams if she had any students with her, Williams said the children on the bus walked to school. Then she resumed discussing threats she had received at the bus compound and said her complaints about the matter had not been resolved.
The students walked north from the corner of 39th Avenue and 28th Street N, where Williams had pulled over, to Lealman Innovation Academy at 4900 28th St. N.
After St. Petersburg Police arrived, all the students on the bus were accounted for, except for a 12-year-old child who was later found.
School district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf called the incident "concerning" and said Williams would not be driving students while under investigation. Williams has been employed by the district since 2005, has a clean driving record and no disciplinary issues.
"Pinellas County Schools has strict policies and expectations of safety in place for our bus drivers, and this morning those policies were not followed," Wolf said.
She added that Williams' bus was inspected for chemicals Tuesday but none were found, as was the case when Williams complained about smelling chemicals years ago. Wolf said drivers are to stay with students even if they believe there is a safety issue.
Williams declined to comment.
Lealman Innovation Academy is a dropout prevention school serving students from sixth through 12th grades. Rebranded as a "personalized learning" magnet school in 2015, school district officials announced Tuesday that the school will be taken off the list of magnet options because many parents felt the marketing of the program was misleading.
Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Colleen Wright at email@example.com or (727) 893-8643. Follow @Colleen_Wright.