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School bus driver arrested on suspicion of child endangerment in Cole County


Cole County deputies arrested a school bus driver Wednesday on suspicion of endangering students after he reportedly argued with students and smashed mailboxes.

The deputies were sent to the 3400 block of Schott Road after a caller said the bus intentionally hit mailboxes and drove away, Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler's office said in a news release. The bus stopped at Tomahawk Road and Algoa Road.

ABC 17 News spoke with students who were on the bus at the time who said the driver and bus monitor became angry because students were being too loud and not cooperating.

Deputies say the driver was arguing with students and told them to get off the bus before telling them to get back on when one student called the bus company, First Student. Once students were back on the driver "accelerated in reverse," hitting the mailboxes, pulled forward and backed into the mailboxes again before driving away, according to the release.

"The bus driver kept yelling at us to sit down and the bus monitor was like screaming at us to like sit down and then eventually they stopped at the road... and they made us get off the bus," said Olivia Henry, a seventh grader who was on the bus.

The sheriff's department didn't name the driver. He was arrested and taken to the jail "without incident" on suspicion of first-degree property damage, multiple counts of child endangerment and reckless driving.

Some of the students were picked up by another bus and some were picked up by parents, the sheriff's office said.

A spokesperson for First Student said the company is in the process of firing the driver.

"At First Student, there is nothing more important than the safety of the students we transport. We are incredibly disappointed by our driver’s actions. Behavior such as this is unacceptable," First Student spokeswoman Jen Biddinger said in an email. "We have initiated the termination processGiven this is an active investigation, we are unable to comment further."

Parents of students who were on the bus at the time have expressed anger toward the Jefferson City School District for not alerting parents immediately after the incident. ABC 17 News spoke with two parents who said they learned the news from law enforcement.

The school has not said anything to me," said Kara Thoman, the parent of one of the students on the bus at the time. "I want the school to be responsible, and to tell me we are sorry your child was in danger." 

Angelique Lowery said she used to work for the bus company, and recalled being trained for situations when students were not cooperating. She said that the right protocol was not followed, and is disappointed that something like this could ever happen.

"Everything about it was wrong," Lowery said. "Just because I specifically went through the training, and it's not just one time we have training, its several times a year that you have training on how to handle situations like this. It's just... the disappointment"

Cole County Prosecutor Locke Thompson said his office is waiting on the probable cause statement.

"We are waiting on a probable cause statement. I anticipate receiving it and making a charging decision sometime tomorrow (Thursday) morning," he said.

Article Topic Follows: Cole

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.


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