A Middleton Cross Plains Area School District bus driver is on paid administrative leave five days after allegedly being caught on video striking a 10-year-old child on the back of the head, Madison365 has learned.
The mother of a Glacier Creek Middle School student told Madison365 that she received a text message from her daughter saying the bus driver had slapped her on the morning of Monday, September 24. Madison365 has chosen to reveal neither the identity of the child nor the mother, to protect the privacy of the child.
The child is multiracial and has special needs, her mother said. The driver is white.
“(My child) said that she was sitting on the bus, three to a seat. Her friend was by the bus window, there was another student in between them, and (my child) was the one sitting closest to the aisle,” the mother said. “(Her friend) had ripped the T-shirt tag off of her own shirt and had pushed the bus window down and tossed the tag out of the bus window. And the bus driver pulled the bus over, stopped it, got up, and (my child) slid across the aisle into another seat. The bus driver told them to disperse and sit apart from each other and as (my child) was getting up out of the seat, he smacked her in the back of the head.”
The mother said she immediately contacted the school district to find out what happened, and eventually was told that the driver had admitted to striking the child, but that “it was a joke.”
“Two o’clock came (and) the dean of students let me know that he had gained access to the video and he, in his own words, said that it was pretty bad,” she said. “If it was his own child, he would’ve felt upset.”
She said she met with Glacier Creek Principal Ken Metz that afternoon along with a Cross Plains police officer, and that Metz allowed her to see the video.
“And watching the video, the hit was very hard,” she said, noting that the contact was hard enough to be audible on the video. “He hit her once with his left hand and then the bus ride continued. At the end of the bus ride, when the children were being dropped off at the school, the children were gathered at the door, attempting to get off, and they were yelling at him, telling him that he shouldn’t have hit (my child). All the other kids were saying this to the bus driver and his response was something along the lines of, ‘but if you would listen to me, there wouldn’t be consequences.’”
The school district has not allowed Madison365 to view the video, citing the ongoing investigation as well as student privacy concerns, but district officials did not dispute the mother’s account. The Cross Plains Police Department declined to comment on the video, because the Cross Plains officer determined that the incident took place outside the village of Cross Plains, and therefore referred the case to the Dane County Sheriff’s Office. The investigating deputy has not returned multiple messages seeking more information, but a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said the investigation was ongoing as of Friday. The Dane County District Attorney’s office said no charges have yet been filed, so Madison365 has chosen not to publicly name the driver until charges are filed. Online court records indicate that the driver has no previous criminal history in Wisconsin.
School district officials said Dane County Child Protective Services are also investigating. School district officials said the driver was scheduled to meet with the district’s Director of Employee Services Tabatha Gundrum on Thursday. Gundrum did not return a call seeking comment, but the mother said Gundrum called her Thursday evening to say that she would interview the child and conclude the investigation and decide upon a course of action Monday.
“I just want to make (my child) safe, make her feel as though her mom has her back, that I’m supportive of her health and happiness,” the mother said. “And the other end is that I wanna make sure that (the driver) doesn’t feel empowered to this again to anybody’s child.”
Middleton Cross Plains Area School District policy prohibits the use of corporal punishment as defined by law, and only allows “reasonable and/or necessary force” to protect student safety by breaking up fights or preventing students from hurting themselves or others. Wisconsin state law defines corporal punishment as “the intentional infliction of physical pain which is used as a means of discipline.”
Middleton-Cross Plains bus drivers are not represented by a union.