Tobi Pruett said she received a call Nov. 17 that a student driving through the school’s parking lot hit her son as he walked through the lot after he got a ride to his car.
“It was a call that you never hope you get. Our son is OK, but it could have been worse,” Pruett said.
According to a Wilson County Sheriff’s Office incident report, School Resource Officer Matthew McPeak saw the incident on the school’s surveillance cameras.
“I did see this on camera and saw that the driver was traveling in an oncoming lane in an effort to go around the line of traffic. The driver appeared to be driving at a high rate of speed,” McPeak said in the report.
After her son was hit, he got up, walked around the car and saw three students staring at him. He said the driver drove away, although the student said they asked if her son was OK before driving away, according to the incident report. He then walked with a slight limp to the school’s front office and had noticeable blood on his hands.
Pruett said an adult inside the school familiar with her son noticed him as he re-entered the building and could tell something was wrong based on his speech.
Pruett took her story and concern to the Wilson County school board meeting Monday.
“I’m not standing here as a complaining parent, because that’s not who I am. I am standing here for each student at Lebanon High School and every other Wilson County school. It had been explained to me that this is common amongst the high schools,” Pruett said.
Board member Wayne McNeese asked Pruett what she felt would be a necessary step for the district to improve safety in parking lots. She said she believed more adult supervision would reduce incidents.
“Students are not unmonitored in a lunchroom because things can happen,” said Pruett, who suggested the school examine danger points and frequent negligent behavior, such as car surfing.
Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said the district has policy it follows to handle parking lot situations, which are dealt with according to the manner of the infraction.
Lebanon High School principal Scott Walters said all school administrators monitor the school parking lot every afternoon.
“Sometimes [school resource officers] will park their cars in various places to monitor driving speed and/or possible reckless driving. Students have received citations, as well as lost driving privileges on campus,” Walters said.
Walters said administrators have become more active in monitoring and supervising the parking lot, noting some walk among the student drivers, while others remain near a school exit.
“In Pruett’s son’s case, the driver who hit him went against the outlined exit route, which caused the incident,” Walters said.
Walters said monitoring each student’s exit is challenging because of the number of students and drivers.
“Supervision remains close to the building after immediate dismissal because that is where most of the students are and where all of the busses and parent drivers are loading,” said Walters, who said Pruett’s son was struck in an area away from most traffic.
Walters said the incident has influenced school administrators to become more visible in the afternoon.
“Since we have met with the Pruett family, the school administrators have made more of an explicit effort to be visible monitors of all areas of the parking lot,” Walters said. “While we have always been a visible presence in the parking lot, we are changing some of our supervision practices to be able to see more of our student drivers. [School resource officers] have also continued to monitor the lot in a variety of ways.”
Pruett said although her son was hit, it could have been worse and hopes the incident starts conversations about possible changes in monitoring student driving behavior.
“We need to take this situation for exactly what it is – a very scary, very frightening reminder that we are not perfect, and we obviously have an issue that needs to be addressed,” she said.