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article imageSchool Bus Driver saves Woman, loses Job

By Chris V. Thangham     May 26, 2007 in Crime
A school bus driver saves a women from danger from her husband with a gun, but loses most of her job.
Sitting in a car with a gun to her head, Teresa Kamieniak says she waited for the perfect opportunity to escape. Two long hours.
When she saw the passing Prospect High-bound school bus - a yellow fortress she saw as too big for her armed, estranged husband to take on - she leapt from her car and pounded on its door.
If you are the school bus driver, would you let the woman in to save her from danger or just leave her in danger and protect the children inside? If you are a Good Samaritan you would let the women in, but those days are gone by, you will be fired or suspended or reduced job opportunities in this modern world. That is what happened to Paula Morales, the school bus driver.
Paula didn’t think twice when she saw the frantic Kamieniak and let her in without thinking about violating safety procedure. The school decided from Paula Morales actions by exposing the children to possible dangers, made the ruling that she be taken off from the bulk of her school routes and barred her from District 214’s routes within hours
Kamieniak heard about this news that Paula has been reduced to driving less school routes because of saving her. She pleaded along with others in front of the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 board members Thursday.
"I stand before you tonight only because of one woman. That woman opened her door and her heart to me," Kamieniak said, her voice breaking as she gestured to the misty-eyed woman. "My children would not be celebrating Mother's Day. They would be putting flowers on my grave. There is no doubt."
She pleaded along with other fellow bus drivers, Paula, and a mother of a teen who was in the bus also at that time. There is a huge debate in that community whether Paula violated the school rules or she did the right thing.
Hours after the April 26 incident, Juliusz Kamieniak was found asleep in his estranged wife's car with a gun, nylon cord and duct tape. He's being held on $2 million bond.
However not everyone appreciated Paula Morales, some including Mom Mary Beth Scherer, applauded District 214 for putting kids' safety first.
"There has been so much controversy over this, and, quite frankly, I'm shocked. I don't see the dilemma," said Scherer, who says the situation easily could have ended in tragedy. "I just wanted to thank you."
Several board members said Friday they were moved by the testimony of Teresa and others, but instead have a dilemma when they take into account the children’s safety.
"I was moved by the comments," President Lenore Bragaw said. "I want to do some looking into it. I don't like to be seen as harsh or punitive or uncaring. On the other hand, we have kids' safety that we have to be responsible for. It's difficult."
Prosecutors say Juliusz Kamieniak stalked her and waited in his wife’s car, grabber her and threatened with a gun and took her to Mount Prospect. So Teresa was in the car for two hours trying to run away from him, when the school bus came, she jumped to this opportunity and ran away from him.
Teresa is saddened by the situation of Morales, who had to lose a bulk of the job because of her. Whatever the outcome of the District 214 members, she said Morales will always be her angel.
When Morales saw Teresa first, saw Teresa’s teacher ID badge, thought she was the mother of one of the teens on board. School policy allows any person only to talk via the side window, the doors are not supposed to be open, but she did. But as soon as Teresa was inside the bus, she drove immediately away and called the police via radio dispatch.
"I would never, ever place a child in danger," she told the school board. "That was not my intention. I understand both sides of the coin. Truly I do. I'm a mom myself. ... But there are things that happen, and you can't plan for them."
Juliusz Kamieniak drove off when his wife approached the bus, but if he had done the opposite things would have got crazy.
"Her husband in theory could have followed her to the bus with a gun. I think it did put kids at risk," board Vice President Miriam "Mimi" Cooper said. "Of course, the result is important, that somebody's life perhaps was saved. You can't look the other way on that. But I don't know that that excuses the safety issue."
Cooper, said she doesn’t know what she would have done, but based on her opinion, she would have just drove away leaving Teresa.
Other drivers said that they will do exactly what Paula did. One driver Georgiana LaBrun said, Paula is a terrific driver had no problems before, if she is not allowed at the main school she is driving, should be allowed to drive in other schools.
Board members Cooper, Bragaw, Leslie Pinney and Bob Zimmanck said they would not be opposed to having administrators reconsider the situation.
Member Bill Dussling, though, said he will not change the decision, he has happy with the comments they received from Scherer’s genuine thank you.
It seems unlikely they will change the decision; hopefully Paula can find another better job where her good works will be appreciated.
Do you agree with the District 214’s decision to ban Paula from driving the school routes?
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