Every Durham Public Schools bus will get at least one security camera if it does not already have one, Superintendent Bert L’Homme announced Thursday.
L’Homme said the district will also be reviewing bus procedures to ensure the safety of all children, in the wake of allegations of sexual abuse on a Durham school bus.
“Multiple” parents have complained about a Sept. 11 incident on a W.G. Pearson Elementary School bus, according to school officials. Police are investigating a reported sexual assault with two possible victims.
The mother of a 5-year-old boy said in an interview last week that three older students forced her son to perform and receive oral sex on them.
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The mother, 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.
On Thursday, a second mother said her son, also 5, told her the boys made him “kiss their private parts.” She said two girls on the bus told her the older boys were hitting her son, and her son told her the boys were bending his hand backward.
It is the policy of The News & Observer not to identify people who are reported to be the victims of a sexual assault.
The first mother said she reported the incident to the school but when she called the police the next day, no police report had been filed. So she filed a police report herself.
But speaking at a press conference Thursday at W.G. Pearson, L’Homme reiterated that school principal LaManda Pryor acted promptly.
Pryor, who stood behind L’Homme at the press conference, said she didn’t learn of the allegations until Sept. 12. She also said the first mother reported the incident to police first on Sept. 11, then to an assistant principal later that day, rebutting the mother’s claim that she called the school first.
The mother’s lawyer, Marie Lang of the Law office of James Scott Farrin, declined to comment on the difference in stories.
The second mother said she called the school the same day but the principal had left. When she went to the school the next day the principal assured her that it would be taken care of and that she would file a police report.
The mother says she is disappointed, however, that no information has been released.
“Today it was my son, tomorrow it could be another child,” she said in her native Spanish.
The bus had a camera, but L’Homme said it has been tough to identify the accused students. He said every child on the bus and the bus driver has been interviewed extensively.
“It is very important to understand that these are serious allegations against very young children,” L’Homme said. “Interviewing them and getting accurate descriptions and identifications has been a challenge.”
L’Homme said that the bus driver will not be disciplined. He said he was confident that the driver was doing his job by driving safely and keeping his eyes on the road.
“The better thing to do is put another adult on the bus,” he said.
A trained monitor was assigned this week to ride the bus to make sure the students are in an assigned seat until they are dropped off, he said.
The district will now be prepared to quickly assign a monitor to any bus where there is questionable security, L’Homme said.
At the end of the press conference, four mothers of students that ride the bus asked the superintendent to meet with all the parents whose children ride the bus. He agreed to do that.