SURRY, Maine — A bus driver will no longer be transporting students to and from Surry Elementary School after she was accused of putting Hello Kitty duct tape on students’ mouths.
Surry Elementary School principal Cathy Lewis said she became aware of the issue on Nov. 6 when two fourth graders came off the bus complaining that they were silenced with duct tape even though they weren’t the loudest students on the bus.
Lewis said she was shocked and immediately asked the bus company, First Student, that employs the driver, to investigate.
The bus driver denied putting tape on students’ mouths, according to superintendent Mark Hurvitt, but other students confirmed that duct tape was being used on the bus and that it had been going on for several days.
First Student, which is run by the transportation company First Group, is currently investigating the allegations, according to Stephanie Creech, a First Student spokesperson.
“The driver has been removed pending the outcome of the investigation,” she said. The driver is not being named since she has not been charged with any crime.
Lewis said that though some students said the alleged duct taping was just a game, it showed a lack of judgment.
“She didn’t hurt anyone, but the potential was there,” the principal said of the bus driver. Lewis was particularly concerned about her students on the bus who have asthma.
Lewis said in her 42 years as an educator, she has never had to deal with anything like this.
“It’s really important for kids to be able to trust their bus driver,” she said. “That’s the first person they see that represents the school. I’ve had some incredible bus drivers who saw themselves as teachers of life.”
On the afternoon that Lewis became aware of the alleged duct taping, she rode home on the bus with the students because First Student did not have a replacement driver available. The driver was replaced the next day.
The principal also published a letter on the school’s website urging parents to reach out to her if they have any concerns.
Hurvitt said that he does not plan to pursue any legal action at this point.
“I don’t think it rises to the level of a crime,” he said. “We’ll see how the investigation goes and we’ll be working with First Student on this.”