Posted at: 03/08/2013 4:58 PM
Updated at: 03/08/2013 6:16 PM
By: Brett Davidsen
You send your children to school each day and expect they will be kept safe and secure, but a situation in Dansville has parents and school faculty on edge.
They're concerned because a man who was fired as a bus driver in the district sits parked across the street from the school each morning and afternoon. His mere presence has led to several complaints. But despite pleas from police and the district, he won't budge.
I-Team 10 has been looking into this story since last week after a mother whose children attend Dansville schools emailed to express her concerns.
She wants to know what police and the district are doing to make sure her kids remain safe. In light of recent events, it's the sentiment of a lot of parents at a lot of schools these days.
Tom Patterson won't go away. School district officials say he parks his truck on vacant property across the street from the Dansville Central Schools campus nearly every day, during morning drop off and during afternoon dismissal.
Tom Patterson said, "What am I hurting sitting here? What am I hurting sitting here?”
The district says it's been going on for the past two months and superintendent Paul Alioto says Patterson’s daily presence here is making people nervous.
Paul Alioto, Dansville School Superintendent, said, “I've listened to a number of complaints and concerns from parents and staff members."
Patterson is a former Dansville bus driver, fired from the district after police say he left a child alone on a school bus last spring. He's facing a misdemeanor criminal charge of endangering the welfare of a child.
Alioto said, "Yes, we have taken some measures to make certain that our kids our safe."
After a parent emailed her concerns, I-Team 10 watched on two afternoons, and sure enough, Patterson arrived early and parked in his usual spot. On Thursday, we went back and approached him.
Patterson said, "Not here to harm nobody. I'm not here to harm the students."
I-Team 10's Brett Davidsen said, “But can you understand what people are thinking? They think that you're a disgruntled employee who.”
Patterson said, "...With an ax to grind, and no I don't."
Livingston County Sheriff John York says his investigators have talked to Patterson but acknowledges he hasn't broken any laws.
Davidsen said, “When you expressed to him that he's making people uncomfortable, what does he say?”
Sheriff John York, Livingston County, said, “He was sorry but he was just doing what was right for him."
Since the killings of 26 children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, districts across the country have been re-evaluating their safety protocols. Alioto says Dansville Police have stepped up their patrols after Sandy Hook but now also acknowledges taking extra precautions because of calls he's received about Patterson.
Alioto said, "What's frustrating is that members of the school community are concerned and there's little I can do to alleviate their concerns other than to take some precautions that I can't share with the general public or staff. But folks need to know we are keeping an eye on things. And sometimes it's better to be able to see an individual on a regular basis and observe the comings and goings of an individual than it is to not know where he or she is."
Patterson said, "I understand with the way things are in society today, the shootings that have gone on in schools and so on. I understand their concern. I understand it very well.”
So why does he sit here? Patterson says he drops off and picks up his son from school each day and says he hangs around to make sure his son isn't harassed. He also says he picked this spot because he's been hassled elsewhere.
Patterson said, “I will sit here until people grow up in this school district."
Davidsen said, “What does that mean?”
Patterson said, “What does that mean? It means I can park up on Main Street in the middle of Dansville and I’ve had people call me in."
Patterson says he encourages worried parents to cross the street and speak with him directly.
Davidsen said, “You've had the district raise concerns. You've had police raise concerns. Obviously the community has concerns. So why wouldn't you just take a different approach?”
Patterson said, “Because, as you can see, Dansville Police Department keeps a very close eye on me. They have taken every call that has come in. They have no problem with me sitting here. They do not see me as a threat to anybody."
Sheriff York said, "We hope that he'll come to reason and choose this is not appropriate behavior.”
I-Team 10 spoke with the police chief in Dansville. He's the one usually on patrol around the school. He says they are aware of Patterson's presence and continue to monitor the situation. Again, Patterson says he is not a danger to anyone but is keenly aware of the concerns others have.