An Illinois school bus driver was fired and charged with allegedly drinking beer while transporting more than two dozen young children.
Michelle Passley, 44, was terminated and arrested on Monday after video appeared to show her drinking from two cans of beer while behind the wheel of a school bus full of elementary students, police said.
“When we put our children on the school bus in the morning, the idea is that we have placed our kids in the safe keeping of someone who is going to is going to take good care of them,” Aurora Police Department Chief Kristen Ziman said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, before releasing the disturbing footage. “It’s infuriating to believe that someone who is trusted with these children on a daily basis could potentially put them in this kind of danger.”
Officers with the Aurora Police Department said they received a complaint from a manager at the First Student Bus Company who claimed “an observant convenience store clerk” called the called East Aurora School District 131 on Nov. 15, saying they’d just sold beer to a woman and then watched her get onto a school bus and drive away, the department said.
“Aurora Police detectives opened a criminal investigation into the matter and began collecting evidence, looking at video clips and interviewing witnesses,” the department said in a statement. “Detectives learned the bus driver picked up the school bus around 6 a.m. on Friday and completed one route. She then stopped at a gas station in the 900 block of North Farnsworth Avenue and purchased two cans of beer, returned to the bus, and drove off.”
After reviewing surveillance footage, investigators discovered that there were 32 elementary school students on the bus at the time.
Passley has been charged with two counts of endangering the life/health of a child and released on a $100 bond, the department said, noting that it also contacted the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office to review Passley’s commercial driver’s license.
The department said it was not aware of any previous criminal charges against Passley. She is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 27.
Ziman said she was shocked by the woman’s apparent disregard for the students’ safety. She praised the convenience store worker for speaking up.
“It evokes a very strong reaction in me. … It’s absolutely brazen,” Ziman told reporters Tuesday. “But for that convenience store clerk that contacted the school district, we’d be none the wiser of this. So there are two very strong messages going out: That it’s not tolerated, and that we need the community’s involvement.”