School board says bus driver used cell phone multiple times after suspension

LAND O' LAKES, Fla. - A Pasco County school bus driver is out of a job for using her cell phone while driving students.

School board members decided Monday night to uphold the superintendent's recommendation to fire Lori Conley.

Conley has been reprimanded five times during the six years she has driven Pasco County school bus 07-269. She was suspended in December and warned if she picked up her cell phone again, she could lose her job.

Conley admits to those offenses, but says the latest complaints that got her fired are bogus.

"From that suspension on, I didn't do what I was accused of doing, by no means at all," she said. "I'm feeling very empty right now and very heartbroken."

At a hearing Monday, school board members heard from witnesses aboard Conley's bus who say they saw her pick up her cell phone multiple times this spring.

"You've had the opportunity to change behavior and you haven't, you have a safety issue with school buses that is very, very critical," said Pasco County Schools Spokesman John Mann.

Parents of Conley's passengers admit the news is upsetting if true, but say they have never had a problem with her.

"I don't think so. I never saw it, so I don't think so. She doesn't seem like a person who would," said Shannelle Gaddy, who's daughter, Asia, rides Conley's bus.

Conley says she'd never intentionally put a child in danger.

"Absolutely not. I'd step in front of a train before I'd let a child get hurt."

She believes board members were looking for a reason to fire her after she hurt her shoulder while on the job.

"I definitely feel like I was a target," Conley said. "There is no doubt in my mind."

Officials say they've got no knowledge of that, and stand by their decision to let her go due to safety concerns.

"You have a bus that is such a big vehicle and can be very tough to drive," Mann said. "You have to keep the children as safe as possible and keep the bus safe."

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