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No Criminal Charges for School Bus Driver Who Struck Black Child; School District Terminates Employment

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The Middleton-Cross Plains School District has terminated the bus driver who was caught on video striking an African-American fifth grader on the back of the head on the morning of Monday, September 24, district officials confirmed this week.

However, the Dane County Sheriff’s Office declined to refer the case for criminal charges against Thomas Armour, instead issuing a county ordinance citation for disorderly conduct, which carries a fine of $150.

The mother of a Glacier Creek Middle School student told Madison365 last week 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.

“(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 last week. “(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.’”

Armour was initially moved to another route for the afternoon of September 24 and placed on paid leave on the morning of September 25. He was terminated on October 1 following a district investigation.

The child’s mother is not satisfied with the law enforcement response.

“He may have lost his job, what he’s been charged with was a finger wag telling him that what he did wasn’t really that bad. That’s is a failure in my eyes,” she said by Facebook message to Madison365. “If I slapped a cop I’m certainly not getting a ticket for violating a county ordinance. I guess it’s all about who you chose to hit, the punishment you’ll get.”

Armour did not respond to a message seeking comment.