Mother blames school bus driver for smoking and feud begins

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A Milwaukee mother says her children's bus driver may have been smoking while on the bus, after she smelled smoke on him. That mother says that after she confronted him about it, the driver stopped picking up her kids. Meanwhile, the bus company says there is a very good reason for that.

Six children have been absent from Christian Faith Academy since last Thursday, October 10th, and there is a good chance they won't be back again after a feud between a mother and a bus driver.

Dante'vion Rankins loves his school.

"It's fun.  We get to go outside sometimes.  We get to watch movies. My teachers are nice. They help me with my work, and they listen to me," Rankins said.

The last few days, the bus hasn't been showing up to pick up Rankins for school -- and school is on the other side of town.

"As soon as I knocked on the door, when he opened up the door, the smoke came out. My first words are 'are you smoking?'" Dante'vion's mother, Marletha Rankins told FOX6 News.

Marletha Rankins says after her kids missed the bus last Thursday, she jumped into the car and caught up with the driver.

She says she detected a foul odor when the doors opened, and confronted the man behind the wheel.

"He said 'yeah I smoked, but it was before any kids got on the bus.'  I said 'don't you know secondhand smoke kills?'" Rankins said.

According to both Rankins and the driver, nasty words were exchanged.

"Very short and sweet, with colorful metaphors and he left rather abruptly after that," said Rich Eckmann.

Rich Eckmann is the general manager with Alliance Transportation.  He says his driver was threatened both while on the bus, and by the woman's fiance when he arrived at the school.

"Just looked at the driver and said 'I will deal with you later.'  And turned around and walked into the school," Eckmann said.

"My fiance said, 'I need to talk to you, man-to-man,'" Rankins said.

Fearing for the driver's safety, both the school and bus company have decided not to stop at the Rankins' address until the family agrees to sit down.

The company says they want to feel the employee is safe.

"They'd like the driver fired for what transpired.  The school and I don't feel that is a viable option," Eckmann said.

"My fiance is not a violent person.  You can look up his criminal record -- never even been arrested," Rankins said.

Rankins says stopping transportation to school is not just hurting her family, but four other children who live at the same address or nearby.

All have been plucked from class, and all say they will not be going back.

"You want to continue to smoke, you want to call me out my name, no that ain't going to fly at all," Rankins said.

"In the end the kids are the one that are going to suffer, because they're the ones who need to get to school," Eckmann said.

The bus company says the driver has been reprimanded for smelling like smoke. The children's mother says she will be enrolling her children in MPS.

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