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School Principal Charged With Illegally Passing a Stopped School Bus

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on October 28, 2015 10:32 AM

Patience is a virtue that one school principal in North Carolina did not display last April. Now she faces national scorn and hundreds of dollars in fines for illegally passing a stopped school bus, WNCN reported.

When Johneka Simmons Williams was stopped for passing a parked bus, it caused a fuss because she is in charge of child safety at her job. Elementary school principals even authorize school bus routes. According to the incident report, however, the administrator, 36, denied passing the bus and told the officer who pulled her over for the move that she would never do such a thing.

The Applicable Statute

The statute outlining appropriate behavior for drivers who see a stopped school bus in North Carolina states the following (emphasis added):

When a school bus is displaying its mechanical stop signal or flashing red lights and the bus is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging passengers, the driver of any other vehicle that approaches the school bus from any direction on the same street, highway, or public vehicular area shall bring that other vehicle to a full stop and shall remain stopped. The driver of the other vehicle shall not proceed to move, pass, or attempt to pass the school bus until after the mechanical stop signal has been withdrawn, the flashing red stoplights have been turned off, and the bus has started to move.

The state statute subsequently provides that anyone found guilty of a violation of the above is guilty of a misdemeanor and must pay a minimum fine of $500. Violations of this section "shall not receive a prayer for judgment continued under any circumstances."

A prayer for judgment continued, more commonly called a PJC in North Carolina, suspends conviction for the guilty. PJCs spare the defendant fines, driver's license points, and insurance points. None of this will be available to the errant principal if she is found guilty.

Principal on Roadway Safety

Williams issued a statement about the charge, saying, "Please know that I take roadway safety seriously, particularly when it involves students. I work diligently every day to ensure the safety of students."

The principal was supposed to appear on the charge in September but her hearing has been continued for reasons that have not been reported. According to NC officials, more than 3,000 incidents of passed school busses occur every day and the problem is growing. Certainly Williams' story is proof that it is never safe to assume that people will follow the rules.

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