Felony charge of child neglect stems from a Feb. 2 incident in Crestview.
CRESTVIEW, Fla. — An Okaloosa County school bus driver has been arrested after authorities say he dropped off an 8-year-old disabled student a mile from her house and told her to walk home.
Anthony Wayne Campbell, 44, was booked into the Okaloosa County Jail on May 11 and released the following day on $3,000 bond. He faces one felony child neglect charge stemming from the Feb. 2 incident.
According to his Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office arrest report, the Walker Elementary School student’s mother filed a complaint Feb. 5 alleging that she had made arrangements for the child to be dropped off from the bus at her home Feb. 2.
The mother said she normally took the child to and from her home but made arrangements that day with the school district to have the child dropped off from the bus.
About 4 p.m. that day, she saw the child walking toward her house. She asked the child where the school bus was, and the child told her the driver made her get off “at the church.”
The woman said the church was one mile from her home, and it was almost dark when the child made it home.
The high temperature in Crestview on Feb. 2 was 59 degrees, with the low hovering near freezing at 34 degrees, according to the AccuWeather website.
After the mother filed a complaint Feb. 5, Campbell was placed on administrative leave as the sheriff’s office conducted an investigation.
“A School Board member became aware of the situation and emailed me at 8:37 a.m. (Feb. 5),” Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson said in an email to the Daily News on Feb. 6, shortly after news broke of the mother’s complaint. “I called the principal and transportation director after reading the School Board member’s email. The parent was in the principal’s office within a few minutes and I spoke to her as well.”
Deputies obtained video footage from the school bus — Okaloosa County School Bus 04-12 — which was driven by Campbell.
In the video, the Walker Elementary School student boarded Campbell’s bus and gave him a bus pass that had instructions she was to be dropped off at her home in Crestview. Campbell said he didn’t know where that address was.
According to the report, he then told her, “OK, all I do is, you know where the church is, I drop two boys off there. They walk down that road, I never go down that road because that’s a long way down there.”
He then asked the victim if her mother was going to meet her at the church, and she said no.
Campbell then told her, “You’ll have to walk,” according to the report.
The bus driver then abandoned the child one mile from her home, the arrest report said. The street the child had to walk down was “a very narrow clay road with several sharp curves which makes it very dangerous for pedestrian traffic, especially a small handicapped child.”
The report said there is a bus stop on the child’s road right beside her house.
Investigators said Campbell didn’t speak with anyone from the school after getting the bus pass that instructed him to drop the victim off at her home and did not attempt to notify the victim’s parents that he was dropping her off at another location despite having the ability to do so with his cellphone.
“This video shows an egregious lack of care and utter disregard for the victim’s safety by Campbell,” the report said. “Campbell consciously made the decision that he was going to leave the victim at a location he chose and told her she would have to walk home, despite the instructions on the bus pass to take her home.”
Authorities determined Campbell’s actions exposed the child to a substantial risk of serious injury and/or death.
One school district employee said Campbell’s suspension without pay would be discussed at an upcoming school board meeting, but that could not be confirmed by press time.
Annie Blanks is a reporter for the Northwest Florida Daily News.