Durham News

Durham mothers want older kids off bus after 2nd molestation claim

Deputy Chief Anthony Marsh talks to mothers from W.G. Pearson Elementary School who were concerned about their children’s safety on the school bus.
Deputy Chief Anthony Marsh talks to mothers from W.G. Pearson Elementary School who were concerned about their children’s safety on the school bus. jalexander@newsobserver.com

A group of mothers met with police Wednesday after a second Durham parent filed allegations of sexual assault on a school bus.

The group of 11 mothers want the three accused students removed from the bus until the police finish their investigation. They said they feared for their children’s safety.

Police confirmed they are investigating an alleged sexual assault with two possible victims on Sept. 11, as well as an unrelated incident on the same bus but on a different date, police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said. The second incident does not involve assault, she said.

Durham Public Schools officials say “multiple families” at W.G. Pearson Elementary School filed complaints of an incident on the bus last month, and not just the mother of a 5-year-old. However, they did not specify the details.

In an interview last week, the mother of the 5-year-old, who is Latino, said the older students – two white and one black – hit her son and pressed their feet on his neck and stomach until he complied. It is the policy of The News & Observer not to identify people who are reported to be the victims of a sexual assault.

She said school staff did not act promptly when she reported the incident.

However, speaking at a school board meeting, Superintendent Bert L’Homme said the principal, LaManda Chestnut-Pryor, responded immediately and launched an internal investigation.

On Monday, L’Homme said the principal interviewed the students on the bus and the bus driver extensively to determine whether an active threat continued, and she determined there was none.

Durham Public Schools system spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said a monitor was assigned this week to ride the bus.

The mothers who went to the police station Wednesday said they first hand-delivered a letter – signed by 30 parents – to the principal, requesting the older students be taken off the bus.

But they said Chestnut-Pryor directed them to the Durham Police Department because the investigation was still open.

Efforts to reach Chestnut-Pryor for comment were unsuccessful.

The letter, written in Spanish, said the mothers all feared for their children’s safety and didn’t feel comfortable with the older students still riding the bus.

They asked Anthony Marsh, Durham’s deputy police chief, for help.

Marsh, who spoke to the mothers through an interpreter, told them the department had no control over who rides the bus but is doing everything it can to investigate the situation.

“We have the best detectives on the case,” he told them. “I feel for you, because I have children as well, and I would be asking questions too.”

Marsh said the department has looked at surveillance video from the bus but couldn’t say how long the investigation might take.