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Boonville man faces 31 charges in relation to Jefferson City school bus incident


A Boonville man has been charged in relation to an incident on Wednesday where he allegedly smashed mail boxes with a school bus after arguing with students.

Robert Hern, 59, is charged with first-degree property damage, operating a motor vehicle in a careless manner, leaving the scene of an accident and 28 counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

Hern was arrested Wednesday by a Cole County Sheriff's deputies. He is being held at the Cole County Jail without bond. A court date has not been set.

Hern drove for First Student, the contract transportation provider for JC Schools.

"We have high expectations for student and driver behavior on the school bus. These expectations were clearly not met during the incident which occurred on Bus 127 yesterday," Jefferson City School District spokesman Ryan Burns said in an email. "The driver involved in the incident, a substitute who normally does not drive JC Schools routes for First Student, will not be returning to drive for our district. "

Cole County Sheriff's 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 after management ordered Hern to stop, according to a probable cause statement.

Deputies say Hern was arguing with students and told them to get off the bus before telling them to get back on when one student called 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.

Hern's probable cause statement says he told a witness the damage was "not my problem." The statement says 28 middle-school students were on board.

Students told ABC 17 News that when they asked Hern what his name was, he allegedly told them they "had to be in the military" to know that information. A parent told ABC 17 News that the school district called to apologize for the incident.

A spokesperson with First Student said in a Wednesday email that the company was firing the driver.

School board to continue using First Student

The Jefferson City School Board at its regular meeting Thursday night said it would continue to use First Student in a unanimous vote.

This comes after Director of Facilities Frank Underwood said the district has received numerous bids from other companies looking to work for the district. His recommendation, however, is to renegotiate a one-year contract with First Student.

Underwood also said the district has not been able to have the correct number of buses that run throughout the area due to staffing shortages. Another board member said that is why it is ideal for the district to continue using First Student.

"You know we recognize that there are clearly some issues that first student needs to address, but they clearly had you know, an advantage in terms of the other companies not being able to have the resources," he said.

Members of the board also agreed to look back at bids from other companies again in the fall for the 2024-25 school year.

The board is scheduled to meet again at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 13.

Article Topic Follows: Jefferson City
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Nia Hinson


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