School bus company defends driver accused of saying Santa is fake

By Stephen Busemeyer and Christine Dempsey, The Hartford Courant
Posted Dec. 12, 2011, at 9:57 p.m.

NORWALK, Conn. — A school bus driver accused of raising questions about the existence of Santa Claus has been moved to a new bus route, a bus company spokeswoman said Monday.

Louis Seeley, the father of an 8-year-old third-grade girl, contacted Columbus Magnet School officials after his daughter told him the driver expressed certain opinions about Santa Claus earlier this month.

The driver told the girl “he believes he should not lie to his kids about who puts the presents under the tree,” Seeley said. “He also said that he doesn’t believe that Jesus was born on Dec. 25.”

Seeley’s daughter approached Seeley a few days later with questions about Santa, he said.

“The next morning, my wife went out to the bus driver and told him not to speak to kids about Christmas,” Seeley said. “He said ‘OK.’”

But Jen Biddinger of First Student defended the driver, saying “We have no reason to believe that conversation took place as initially reported.”

Biddinger said the student had overheard a conversation between the driver and another student. She wouldn’t identify the driver, calling it a personnel matter.

“Obviously, we take all incidents very seriously,” she said. The bus company spoke with the driver and with the board of education, she said.

“The driver indicated that he was having a conversation with another student regarding his focus on other elements, other than gift-giving,” during the holidays, Biddinger said. “He was saying ‘It’s much more than gift-giving.’”

She added that the driver, who has been working for First Student since 2007, never had a complaint filed against him before this incident. In fact, parents have started calling the bus company to complain about the fact he was moved, she said.

Seeley said his concern is not so much about the Santa question but about the accountability of the driver, who he said shouldn’t be speaking with children at all. He said school officials were slow to respond to his concerns.

“There’s a code of conduct, and they should be held to a higher standard,” he said. “This is not about liking or disliking the driver … The cat’s going to come out of the bag, but it shouldn’t be by the bus driver.”

Emily Lopez, the principal of Columbus Magnet School, could be reached for comment.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/12/12/news/nation/school-bus-company-defends-driver-accused-of-saying-santa-is-fake/ printed on April 21, 2014