CHICAGO (CBS) — A northwest Indiana school bus driver has been charged with felony neglect, for allegedly allowing three students drive the bus, as video of at least one child behind the wheel has gone viral.
The Porter County Sheriff’s Department said 27-year-old Joandrea McAtee, of Portage, was arrested Friday morning after showing at the Porter Township Bus Barn, where she was collecting her final check.
A letter emailed to Porter Township parents said this all came to light Thursday when parents at Boone Grove High told a school resource officer the driver was letting kids take turns driving the school bus on the way home from school.
The Porter County Sheriff’s Department said she allowed three kids – ages 11, 13, and 17 – to drive while other children were on board. Police said the three students took turns driving the bus down a stretch of Lourdes Street in rural Valparaiso.
Once they got word of the incident, the school district and local authorities launched an investigation right away and relieved the bus driver of her duties.
“The students and parents that immediately came forward with this information should be commended for doing exactly what we teach, which is SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING,” Sheriff David Reynolds said in a statement. “An investigation was immediately started and no one was injured or harmed. The Sheriff’s Office and the Porter Township School Corporation takes safety and security of every student seriously and every parent must understand that this case will be investigated thoroughly.”
Videos apparently showing the incident have gone viral.
In a video posted on Twitter, a woman can be seen hovering over a child steering a school bus, and saying “don’t you tell no other adults.”
In another video, the woman cannot be seen in the frame as a girl drives the bus, but her voice can be heard saying, “it’s all good, it’s all good. I’m letting her stop at Michael’s stop.”
Rochelle McNamara said her daughter told her what happened when she got home from school Thursday afternoon.
“Then we got the email, and I was just like, ‘I don’t understand where an adult who’s driving a bus gets an idea that that is okay,” McNamara said.
Parents said they’ve complained about the driver before. They said their kids have had complaints about her yelling in the past. One parent said her daughter has come home crying.
McAtee has been fired by the district and the school bus company. She was being held in the Porter County Jail on Friday. Court information was not immediately available.