A northwest Indiana school bus driver faces criminal neglect charges after allowing three students to drive during a route.
School bus contractor First Student provides transportation service for Porter Township School Corporation and terminated Joandrea McAtee, 27, after learning from parents that three students, ages 11, 13 and 17, got behind the wheel on Thursday and drove the school bus during a route near Valparaiso, Indiana.
Students also recorded McAtee via cellphone video showing students behind the wheel driving the bus.
welcome to Boone grove where we let 6th graders drive a bus with children on it. pic.twitter.com/gQRzWUrDPg— brianna lavin (@breelavin24) September 21, 2018
McAtee was arrested at the local First Student office while picking up her final paycheck on Friday.
Formal charges for being filed Monday by the Porter County prosecutor’s office, School Transportation News learned.
Dr. Stacey Schmidt, superintendent of Porter Township School Corporation, told STN that the school district’s administration joined with First Student and the local sheriff’s department to launch an immediate investigation after learning of the incident.
“The investigation quickly substantiated the allegations and the driver was relieved of all duties involving Porter Township School Corporation,” read a statement she released. “The Porter Township School Corporation is angered and disappointed in the actions of this driver. The safety of our students is a top priority. This individual’s actions are not reflective of the hard work, dedication, and professionalism of our staff.”
She added that the school corporation is thankful for the students and parents who notified her administration as well as law enforcement, “allowing us to respond expediently and take the proper steps to ensure student safety.”
First Student spokeswoman Jen Biddinger added that the school bus contractor is “incredibly disappointed” by McAtee’s actions. “There is nothing more important than the safety of the students we transport. Behavior such as this is completely unacceptable and totally at odds with what we stand for as a company,” she said. “We have a zero-tolerance policy for employees whose actions may harm or put others at risk.”