A Tribute To A Special Driver

 

 

Joyce Gregory

 

Press Release
From the School Bus Information Council
March 3, 2005

Like 500,000 fellow school bus drivers around the country, Joyce Gregory's day began very early and routinely when she left her home to begin her route. But unlike any other driver in the long and proud history of pupil transportation, her day and future ended suddenly and criminally when a teenage student who rode her bus shot and killed her as she stopped to pick him up. What an especially chilling and senseless end to a life marked by caring for others.

Our heartfelt condolences and prayers are with the Gregory family, and the families of the children riding in her bus who have been traumatized by the horror they witnessed on the morning of March 2 in rural Tennessee. Nationally, the school bus industry is especially close-knit, and we mourn the loss of a wife, mother of two, and colleague. Many parents in Cumberland City, Tennessee knew Joyce Gregory as the responsible, reliable adult that she was -- a caring professional to whom the safety of their children was entrusted two times every school day. The big yellow school bus is emblematic of our freedom, mobility and confidence that our children are safe and secure. The murder of Joyce Gregory reverberates in every city and town because every city and town operates yellow school buses just like the one in which Joyce Gregory was slain.

This tragedy will cause many to ask, "Is my child's school bus safe?" The answer is yes -- a school bus is the safest vehicle on the road. There is no safer way for a child to get to and from school. Members of the school transportation community have been touched by this unprecedented incident, especially because people that work in pupil transportation hold the safety and security of a school bus and the children it carries in the highest regard. Many of those professionals are stakeholders as well -- their own children ride yellow school buses on a daily basis. That role of stakeholder, and the very real awareness that they are safeguarding our future on a daily basis, is what leads those in pupil transportation to exhibit a real passion for the industry.

The professionals involved in school bus transportation are throwing their passion for the safety for school children at the challenge presented by this tragic circumstance. The school transportation industry always has and always will take proactive steps to evaluate all issues related to school bus safety and security. We believe that while it is difficult to stop some types of violence, it is not impossible.As parents, students, transportation professionals, and world citizens mourn the passing of Joyce Gregory, rest assured in the knowledge that her tragic death will inspire her colleagues across the nation to work even harder to further the safety and security of children as they ride in the big yellow school bus.

 

The whole story from the AP "School Bus Driver Killed"
March 3, 2005
by Gary Tanner


The Associated Press CUMBERLAND CITY, TN -- A 14-year-old student who had reportedly been turned in by his school bus driver for using smokeless tobacco was charged with fatally shooting her Wednesday as she stopped to pick him up on her route. Joyce Gregory was shot and killed, but none of the 24 students on the bus, ranging from kindergarten to the 12th grade, were hurt. Two weeks ago, Gregory told family members she was having trouble with students ``dipping snuff'' on the bus, according to her cousin, Jacqueline Reed. After several warnings, she reported them to school administrators Tuesday, Reed said, adding that the 14-year-old suspect was among the students.The shooting happened around 6:15 a.m. on an unpaved rural road just outside Cumberland City, about 50 miles northwest of Nashville. The bus was picking up students and taking them to Dover Elementary and Stewart County High School. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said boy had not yet boarded the bus when the driver was shot. Police said the weapon used was a .45-caliber handgun, but they would not say where the boy got it.

Officials gave few details about the shooting at a news conference, and while they acknowledged also hearing stories that the driver had disciplined the student, they would not comment on a motive for the shooting. They also refused to release the boy's name, but several neighbors identified him as Jason Clinard. District Attorney Dan Alsobrooks said the suspect has been charged with first-degree murder in Juvenile Court and was being held without bond. But he said the boy could face adult charges as the investigation continues.Public defender Jack Lockert met with the boy after the shooting for about 45 minutes."I would characterize him as being in shock,'' Lockert said. "We obviously feel like he has severe mental issues. He's an A and B student and had never been in trouble before.''TBI Director Mark Gwyn said he wasn't releasing much information because agents were still interviewing students."You must understand these are very delicate interviews,'' Gwyn said. "These are young, young children. We're still in the process of conducting those interviews, and we're doing this as expeditiously as possible. We want to get this city back to normal as soon as possible.'' After the shooting, the bus crashed into a utility pole at the driveway of the student's home and knocked out power in the rural neighborhood.

A white sheet was draped across the front of the bus and door as authorities investigated the scene. Mitchell Kern lives about 50 feet from where the bus crashed and said he rode the same bus every day last year before graduating from Stewart County High School. He had also heard that the boy was in trouble for using smokeless tobacco. "He was a good kid. Nobody seen this coming,'' Kern said."It's a very sad day in Stewart County,'' said Phillip Wallace, director of Stewart County Schools. "We've been in shock. We're very grieved to lose a very important part of our community.'' Gregory was a teacher's assistant for four or five years and had been a bus driver for the past two years. Wallace said."I lost a good friend this morning, so I'm hurt,'' said Bill Austin, a supervisor for Stewart County schools. "We're trying to do our level best to get our kids through this. That's what we've got to do right now.''

Emergency medical workers moved Gregory's body from the school bus into an ambulance about five hours after the shooting. A wrecker towed the bus away at noon.

 

UPDATE!!!

Thankfully, this story has a ending that shows justice was indeed served.

 

DOVER, Tenn. - A teenager who shot his school bus driver to death after she reported him for using smokeless tobacco on the bus was sentenced to life in prison.

Jason Clinard, 16, was convicted Friday on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Joyce Gregory. Clinard, who was 14 at the time of the March 2005 shooting, was tried as an adult.

Attorney Worth Lovett said his client deeply regrets the shooting.

"He told me he prays often that he can go back and do that day over again," Lovett said. "There was no doubt in his mind that he had done the wrong thing and he was going to pay for it."


Clinard looked stoical and almost relaxed as the jury returned its verdict, angering the victim's mother.

"I never saw the look I was looking for," Joyce Gail Wyatt said outside the courthouse. "It bothers me that he showed no remorse."

Gregory, 47, had reported Clinard for using smokeless tobacco on the bus, and, according to testimony, he hated her for it. He also had also been in trouble for fighting on the bus and was suspended from school in February 2005 because of the two incidents. He shot her six times, prosecutors said.

Lovett acknowledged that Clinard shot Gregory, but he asked the jury to consider a lesser charge of manslaughter. He said Clinard had been depressed and suicidal and was hearing voices.

Bud Wyatt, Gregory's father, expressed sympathy for the teen, saying he realized an example had to be made of Clinard, but he thought the verdict was "too rough."

Lovett said he would file a motion for a new trial. Clinard will have to serve at least 51 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

Prosecutor Dan Alsobrooks said the verdict sent a message that school violence would not be tolerated.

Clinard did not testify during the trial in this small town about 65 miles northwest of Nashville. His parents, who cried and hugged family and friends after the verdict, did not speak to reporters.