Driver is punished for choking pupil

A Richmond County school bus driver was suspended for one day for shoving a pupil into a seat and choking him, according to records released Thursday.

Donald Bonvillain, 54, of Blythe, lost his composure when a fight broke out on his bus Nov. 5, Superintendent Dana Bedden's Jan. 6 letter states.

At one point, the pupil, who was identified by only his initials, pushed the driver. Mr. Bonvillain responded by pushing him into a seat, falling on top of him. According to witnesses, the driver's hands ended up around the Morgan Road Middle School pupil's neck.

"At no time, are you to physically push or fight with a student, even if the student threatens you," Dr. Bedden wrote. "As the adult in charge, you are to maintain your composure at all times and control the situation."

He was initially suspended for four days pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation, but three of those days were restored to him.

The pupil, 14, was given an option of suspension for the remainder of the school year or attending the alternative school, which he chose.

The incident wasn't the first in which Mr. Bonvillain has been in trouble with the school system. Dr. Bedden's letter refers to other "poor decisions," including a complaint filed less than a year ago that the driver "popped" a student on the back of the head, while referring to him with a dismissive name.

According to his personnel file, Mr. Bonvillain also received a letter of reprimand and was suspended for 10 days in 1996 for referring to students using a racially derogatory term when they wouldn't be quiet as directed. He claimed that he referred to them as "instigators." In 1998, he was suspended for five days for getting a speeding ticket.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.