Wake school bus driver charged with pushing boy off bus

Jacqueline Harris Dennis
Jacqueline Harris Dennis

A bus driver for Wake County schools has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault on a child in connection with incidents that Raleigh police said happened on a bus last month.

Jacqueline Harris Dennis, 50, of 5608 Hilltop Road in Fuquay-Varina was freed on $15,000 bail after her arrest at the police department’s Northeast District station Monday morning. Investigators for crimes against juveniles are based there.

An arrest warrant stated that two boys, one 7 years old and the other 8, were assaulted on Dennis’ bus on the afternoon of May 12.

Police wrote that Dennis punched the 7-year-old in the stomach, twisted his arm, grabbed the back of his neck and shoved him off the bus.

The 8-year-old was shoved into a metal window frame on the bus, the warrant stated.

But in an interview Tuesday with ABC-11, Dennis denied hitting the students. Dennis said she was filling in on a route for Reedy Creek Elementary School in Cary when one kindergartner wouldn't listen to her when she repeatedly told him to sit down.

Dennis said she called him to the front of the bus, where he stayed for the remainder of the trip but continued to stand up. When Dennis stopped at the child’s stop, she told him to not get off right away as she wasn't sure that was his correct stop.

She said the boy turned around on the step, lunged, and yelled at her. Dennis said she was scared of him, but never touched him or any other student.

Lisa Luten, a spokeswoman for the school system, said Dennis had been hired Oct. 12, 2012, and was assigned to the system’s Cary transportation district until she was transferred to non-driving duties on May 13 while her case was reviewed.

Dennis resigned last Friday, Luten said. Police had obtained an arrest warrant for Dennis three days earlier.

Dennis was assigned an Aug. 21 court date.