Charges laid after hellish school bus ride

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

NORTH DUNDAS – A traumatic experience for two girls on a school bus has led to charges for a teenage boy from North Dundas.

SD&G O.P.P. allege that over a four day period in January (Jan. 19-22), the boy had assaulted, threatened and harassed the two girls while travelling on the school bus.

The 15-year-old from North Dundas was arrested Jan. 28 and charged with four counts of sexual assault and two counts each of assault, uttering threats, criminal harassment and failing to comply with a probation order.

David Coombs is the superintendent of schools with the Upper Canada District School Board.

While he can’t speak to the specifics of the case, due to the ages of the students involved and confidentiality, Coombs says any case like this would be part of an immediate investigation by the school principal.

“Once the principal has that information, that principal must conduct an investigation and sometimes it’s in concert with the police investigation. We work cooperatively with the police,” Coombs told Cornwall Newswatch.

The superintendent says the consequences can include expulsion, though the outcome of the investigation is kept private.

“In some cases principals have what’s called a ‘principal inquiry into expulsion’….a process by which they can conduct an investigation of a serious allegation that removes the student from the school and the school bus until such time as an investigation can be rendered and a decision be made,” Coombs said.

He is also encouraging parents to contact the school if they have heard anything or if there’s something that “tweaking them a little bit.”

While students are being transported by the Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario (STEO) – the board’s arm’s length transportation consortium – student conduct is still under the jurisdiction of the school board.

With transporting thousands of Upper Canada District School Board students daily over 20,000 kilometers, Coombs says a case like this is a “pretty rare event.”

Coombs was asked about parents’ reaction to the alleged events and how this could happen on school property over several days. “I would caution people because this is why we take the time to do a thorough investigation and it’s important to let the process play out. If they have any concerns regarduing the safety of their child on the bus, this is a good opportunity to talk to your children about all their school day…not just on the bus,” he said.

The youth facing criminal charges will be in a Cornwall court Mar. 26.

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