School bus driver honored for protecting 'precious cargo'

LAMONT, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - School bus driver Deysi Nunez said she was just doing her job when she refused to let two men near her students, but on Tuesday she was given the California Highway Patrol Commander's Certificate of Commendation and recognized for "incredible bravery."

On May 30, Nunez stopped two men from getting on her bus. She was taking students home, and had about 80 eighth-graders on board. As she stopped to let off a few kids at Myrtle Avenue School, the men suddenly showed up at the bus door.

"The guys were there," Nunez told Eyewitness News. "I'm making sure they're not coming on the bus. The kids in front, they were kind of scared."

The bus driver said the two men appeared to be about 20 years old, and they said something had been thrown out the bus window.

Nunez hadn't seen anything like that and hadn't spotted the car at all.

"One of the young men walked about five or six windows down, and stood (outside the bus) and was knocking on the window to one of the students," she described. "Saying, 'Why did you throw things out?'"

Nunez told the men they could not talk to the students, they had to deal with her.

"They said, 'No, you're not doing your job,'" Nunez recalled. "I said, 'OK, was there any damage done to your vehicle?'"

One man nodded "no," the other said "yes." She considered that another red flag.

Refusing to let the men in the bus door, Nunez managed to calm down the students and still reach for her radio to contact the supervisor for bus transportation. Then she told the men the Highway Patrol was being contacted to send an officer out to take a report.

"The guys were going back and forth, back and forth," Nunez described. "The next thing you know, we hear tires, and they turned and left."

"They didn't stick around to to explain themselves or their actions," CHP Lt. Julian Irigoyen said. He was at the Tuesday afternoon ceremony to give Nunez the recognition.

Officers never found the men or the gray car they were reportedly driving. The bus driver said she never had a chance to see a license plate.

Irigoyen said the CHP oversees school bus inspections and certification of drivers.

"One of the things we do is honor them, not only for driving, but for these actions of heroism when they present themselves," the officer said.

Nunez said her focus was on the students.

"Some of them were scared, so I wasn't thinking of me, I was thinking of their safety," she said.

The driver said she was doing her job, but it's more than just a job.

"All of these (other) bus drivers, I learned from them. They taught me, you've got to love what you do, and make sure it's not just a job," she said.

Irigoyen said Nunez will now be nominated for their department's Bus Driver of the Year award. He's also grateful to see her example of the dedication by drivers who care for local kids.

"It's great to know that they take it seriously," Irigoyen said. "That they're willing to put themselves at harm in order to protect a precious cargo."