WCS Transportation Director Reports On Stop-Arm Violations

Lewis Fuller (R), Warsaw Police Department DARE officer, talks about the vaping he’s seen at schools while Warsaw Community Schools Director of Transportation Mark Fick (L) and Warsaw Street Superintendent Dustin Dillon listen. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
By David Slone

WARSAW — During the 2022-23 school year, there were 289 school bus stop-arm violations in the entire county for Warsaw Community Schools, Director of Transportation Mark Fick told the Warsaw Traffic Safety Commission on Wednesday.

The school year is 180 days.

For summer school so far, there’s been six stop-arm violations.

In Indiana, it’s against the law for drivers to pass a bus that’s stopped and has its red lights flashing and stop-arm extended.

Of the 289 violations, 127 were sent to the prosecuting attorney’s office. A total of 146 were unable to be sent to the prosecutor because they couldn’t get a license plate, ID the vehicle, etc. Police pulled over 16.

The majority of the stop-arm violations – 80 – were at the Papa John’s bus stop on Center Street. The other stops in double digits were Green Acres, 29; Winona Avenue, 17; Ind. 15S, 12; Parker Street, 11; and Presby Preschool, 10.

“This is all part of (WCS Superintendent) Dr. (David) Hoffert’s guidance as far as being on the education side so the public knows where we stand as far as WCS, and we just want to keep the public aware of how we’re doing things and what’s going on as far as stop-arm violations,” Fick said.

Traffic Administrator Lance Grubbs asked if the numbers did not represent any stop-arm violations from Whitko, Wawasee, Tippecanoe Valley or Triton and if they were just strictly for Warsaw schools. Fick said that was correct.

Fick then brought up student vaping on school buses. He said they had a total of 41 students actually vaping on the bus, from preschool to high school.

“That could be where another students sees a student vaping, they report it or we catch it on video,” he said. “They’re really slick about it now.”

Joel Beam, Warsaw Police Department captain, said, “I want to mention that the preschool in this is not a typo.” He said a preschool student actually had a vape pen.

Fick explained, “We actually had a preschooler who grabbed mom’s/dad’s vape and actually had THC in it.” He said action was taken, but it was surprising nonetheless.

Fick said many of the vape products that were found were reported by other students don’t want them around. They’ll pass by the bus driver and let the driver know what other student has a vape.

Fick said they had some high school students charging elementary school students $1 for a single inhalation.

Grubbs told him, “Obviously, you have to not only document it but prove it happened before any of those kids are brought in and disciplined.”

Fick agreed, saying, “There’s no assumption, there’s no anything, we have proof then we send it to the principals.”

Lewis Fuller, WPD DARE officer at Lakeview Middle School and Traffic Safety Commission member, said a big lesson for him and officer Ray Navarro is vaping as that’s a big issue they are seeing in schools.

“Those are big lessons. We harp on that, but I will say it’s not just a Warsaw Community Schools thing. It is a youth thing, and so it’s happening everywhere and we’re just trying to get in front of them, educate them, teaching them about it. I think that’s the best course of action, and hopefully we can get ahead of it, but it is a problem. It’s a big problem,” Fuller said.

Grubbs asked him if he sees cigarettes anymore in schools. Fuller said they really don’t.

“I think the three years I’ve been in schools we had one student light a cigarette. Did it intentionally in the bathroom, didn’t want to get suspended,” Fuller responded. “Once he did, you could smell it throughout the entire school. The vape stuff is just different.”

He said companies are doing “more and more” to hide it, making the vapes more transparent and easier to conceal.

“The tobacco companies for years marketed to kids, saying they didn’t, but they did. And now they’re doing that with vapes,” Fuller said.

Some vapes look like things like highlighters, packs of gum or pens.