Family upset after bus driver slaps teen while trying to break up fight

Metro school bus.jpg
Posted at 2:55 PM, Sep 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-20 15:55:26-04

MANCHESTER, Tenn. (WTVF) — What happened on a Coffee County school bus on August 27 began like a typical middle school fight.

"We start exchanging words,"14-year-old Faith Judge said. Judge said another girl had been spreading rumors about her regarding a boy. The girl continued the campaign on the school bus. And Judge says she'd had enough.

"I shouldn't have said it," Judge acknowledged, "but I stood up, I will say, I stood up and said 'do something about it.' So she did hit me." The girls began exchanging punches, according to reports filed on the case. That's when bus driver Diana Prater stopped the bus on Ogles Cemetery Road and walked to the back to get between them.

According to the Coffee County Sheriff's Department, Prater "wrapped her arms" around the student. Judge says the bus driver had her in a choke hold.

The girls kept yelling at each other. "I said 'eff you' to the girl," Judge said, "and I guess the bus driver thought it was aimed at her, and she slapped me across the face."

The bus driver's attorney admits that is what happened. Prater says she thought the insult was meant for her and she says the teen spat at her when she said it.

"Well she did what 90 percent of the people in the United States would do," said Prater's attorney, "she slapped the child." The attorney says Prater didn't realize it at the time, but she later needed medical attention for a bite mark, which they believe came from when the bus driver was holding the teen.

"I really don't recall biting her," Judge said.

Coffee County Schools, the Coffee County Sheriff's Department and the Tennessee Department of Children's Services all investigated the incident.

"There were disciplinary actions that were taken for both the student for her actions, and the bus driver for her actions," Director of Schools Dr. Charles Lawson said.

Prater was suspended for three days while the school investigated, but then returned to the same bus route. We asked if Lawson was comfortable with that arrangement, since the two would undoubtedly come in contact with each other again.

"Upon his (the transportation manager's) advisement, yes," Lawson said.

Judge says she was suspended from the bus for 3 weeks and is facing assault charges for the alleged bite. The bus driver is not facing any charges.

"We're not saying it's okay for her to fight," said Faith mom Ashley Judge, "but there's no repercussions, I don't feel like, for the bus driver at all."

Meanwhile Prater says she just wants to get back to work and let this entire incident blow over.

"She's sorry it happened, she's apologized," her attorney said.

The teenager is due in court in October.