Bus driver alleged to have kissed, hugged student resigns

Had worked for First Student for 15 years
2012-04-04T17:00:00Z 2012-04-05T16:45:09Z Bus driver alleged to have kissed, hugged student resignsBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The school bus driver alleged to have hugged and kissed a 17-year-old Senior High student recently has resigned from his job.

School District 2 interim Superintendent Jack Copps and Maureen Richmond, spokeswoman for First Student, the private company contracted to provide bus services for the district, confirmed that the driver resigned.

The driver, whose name has not been released, had been suspended since last week.

First Student and SD2 have been conducting separate investigations.

"We'll continue to work with our partners in the school district," Richmond said. "We'll want to be thorough with this investigation."

A female Senior High student reported last week that she felt uncomfortable when the incident happened.

Video from a surveillance camera on the bus shows the girl waiting in front of Senior as the driver exits the bus, approaches the girl and then kisses her forehead and tries to hug her before she pulls away, Copps said.

They then both go inside the bus, where he hugs her again, Copps said.

"We had access to the film and we could see what was going on in the bus and what is going outside the bus," he said. "We could observe everything that was going on. It was easy for us to make a determination."

Officer Karl Rude, Senior's school resource officer, was investigating whether the incident is a criminal case but wasn't available Wednesday for comment.

Neither Copps nor Richmond knew of any criminal charges being filed in the case.

"And I haven't heard anything that they're leaning in that direction," Copps said.

Once the investigation wraps up, the district and First Student plan to work together to set up more defined guidelines for drivers.

"We will have conversations to make it very clear what is appropriate and not appropriate conduct for bus drivers," Copps said.

The driver worked for First Student for about 15 years.

Copps asked that the public not to let isolated incidents affect the perception of drivers in general.

"We do have some just really excellent bus drivers in this district that are supported by parents, staff and students alike," he said.

First Student has had other incidents involving drivers in the last several years.

In December 2010, a judge sentenced former First Student driver Timothy Whalen to six years in state custody for hitting a Billings student in 2009 at a crosswalk while driving drunk.

Also in 2009, another driver was investigated for buying alcohol at a state liquor store while driving a bus with no students on board. Later in the day, the driver allegedly asked a student to hide the liquor before officials boarded. No charges were filed in that case.

Last December, a First Student driver was ticketed for hitting a bicyclist and then leaving the scene.



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