Cleveland City Council moves to increase penalty for driving around a school bus

CLEVELAND - It was the sentence that captured the attention of the nation last week.

Shena Hardin, 32, of Cleveland, forced to stand on the corner carrying a sign reading "Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a bus." It was part of her punishment for doing just that.

When Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Pinky Carr handed out the unusual punishment, it was in part because she had few other options. Under Cleveland law, the offense was a minor misdemeanor, which limited the punishment the judge could deliver.

Carr was among those looking on Monday night as Cleveland City Council took the first step towards changing that with an ordinance that would bump the offense up to a first-degree misdemeanor. That would mean judges in the future would have the option of penalties, including up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

The measure will now be sent to a council committee.

"I was very surprised to find that it was only a minor misdemeanor, that no jail time could be imposed and that the most I could do was fine the individual and suspend the license," Carr said. "So I'm in support of it because I think there needs to be more meat to that violation of the law."

The ordinance was introduced by Cleveland Councilman Kevin Conwell who said the judges "need more tools." He said the legislation will give judges options for dealing with offenses like Hardin's in a harsher way, should they see fit.

Hardin was cited in September after she drove her SUV up on the sidewalk of East 38th Street to get around a school bus that had stopped to pick up a disabled child. The incident was captured on videotape on two different days.

"A lot of things factored into it," said Carr, of the unusual sentence. "The fact that she wasn't remorseful, the nature of the crime. A lot of things played into my sentence and, I mean, hopefully, she learned something from this experience and we won't see her driving on the sidewalk again."

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