MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — A bus driver and bus aide for Muskegon Public Schools are off the job for leaving a group of elementary students at an intersection miles from their homes.
Muskegon Public Schools Superintendent Matthew Cortez told News 8 Monday the school had concluded its investigation and both employees had been fired. In a letter to parents, he said the internal investigation, which included reviewing bus footage from the Sept. 18 incident, validated parent complaints.
“It confirmed how the actions of the driver and aide put students at risk. Their actions were deplorable and violated district policies, ethics and protocol.
“Our parents trust us to keep their children safe at school and on busses (sic) and there is no excuse for this kind of behavior,” Cortez stated in the letter.
The students told their parents they were kicked off the bus for breaking the “no eating” rule with a bag of chips. Rebecca Zamora and Amanda Castro said their five children, ranging in age from 6 to 10 years old, were left near Continental Street and Holbrook Avenue.
Castro said the driver threatened to call police if the students didn’t get off the bus.
The superintendent said older students guided the younger children to safety.
Cortez said the driver and aide didn’t report the incident and the district and Dean Transportation only found out when parents notified the bus garage the next morning.
“I have met personally with the owner of Dean Transportation and he too was shocked by this incident and has fired both the driver and aid. Muskegon Public Schools and Dean Transportation will not tolerate this type of behavior,” Cortez wrote to parents.
The superintendent said he contacted the parents and students involved in the incident and apologized. He said he also commended the older students who helped the younger ones.
“While I cannot undo what happened, I am sorry for the offensive actions of these two people, and I will make sure they are never allowed to transport our students again,” Cortez promised.
News 8 reached out to Zamora following the firings, but she said she’d been advised to not comment on the situation.
Kellie P. Dean, president and CEO of Dean Transportation, released this statement about the incident:
“Last week, Dean terminated the employment of the school bus driver and monitor involved in this incident. Dean has reached out to each student’s guardians to apologize for the incident and inform them of the investigation findings. The driver and monitor’s decision was in complete violation of company policy. The safety of our students is our first commitment. Dean has reinforced the training, policies, and protocols to our employees to ensure a similar incident does not happen in the future.”
Muskegon Public Schools will hold a meeting Monday night about the district’s bond proposal, but Cortez says the bus incident is not on the agenda.
***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the district would take feedback about the bus incident during Monday night’s meeting based on a misinterpreted message. We regret this error, which has since been corrected.***