Why didn't Shelton tell parents about a school bus aide's arrest?
SHELTON — A preschool parent said she is outraged that she was not told immediately that a bus aide was arrested two weeks ago while her son and other 3- and 4-year-old special needs students were being driven home from school.
The aide, Linda Frances Cummings, 49, of Seymour, was arrested at 4:50 p.m. March 12 after officers stopped the bus at the intersection of Cloverdale Avenue and Ripton Road, according to a police report.
Mohegan School Principal Kristen Santilli called law enforcement at 4 p.m. and reported she was told there was an odor of marijuana on the preschool bus, which had just departed, according to police.
Police said Shelton Student Transportation Services was notified, and the bus was stopped. The reporting police officer’s report stated that he stepped inside the bus and smelled marijuana.
After speaking to the driver and Cummings, police said Cummings pulled a metal container with six marijuana cigarettes from her backpack.
The aide was formally arrested after the children were placed on another bus and transported away, according to police.
Cummings was charged with possessing less than half an ounce of cannabis and six counts of risk of injury to a child. She posted a $2,500 bond and was due in court in Derby March 13.
“These kids are the most vulnerable in the school, which only escalates my outrage,” said the mother, who is not being named to protect the identity of her child. She said she learned of the arrest through a letter from the State’s Attorney office received March 20. The letter asked for pertinent information about the case, she said.
But the day of the actual arrest, Cummings said she and her husband only received an email saying the bus would be late because of “technical” issues. She said her son arrived home about a half hour late, with a teacher getting off the bus to say she was on the bus with the child, and he was safe at all times during the trip home.
The parent said she thought nothing of the statement since the email specifically said “technical” issues, which she thought to mean bus maintenance.
The city of Shelton’s bus company, Shelton Student Transportation Services, runs the all-school busing. Bus aides are employees of the bus company, not the Board of Education.
Shelton Student Transportation Services head Ken Nappi said Cummings was “immediately terminated” after the company learned the of the arrest.
Nappi said the bus company followed protocol and alerted the Board of Education. Since the students’ safety was never in jeopardy, Nappi said the specifics of the incident were not announced, simply that a technical issue slowed student drop off.
“We do not take this situation lightly,” Nappi said. “The protection and safety of our students is what we strive for every day. Shelton Student Transportation Services’ philosophy is that we are transporting our most important commodity in the world — our children.”
Interim Superintendent Beth Smith did not address the mother’s complaint directly, but said the district typically notifies parents if there is a delay in pick up or drop off.
“Parents were notified that day that there was an incident, the bus would arrive home late and that all children were safe,” said Smith.
She said that when there are incidents with Board of Education employees, the situation is handled as a personnel matter, and details are not released.
Shelton Police Lt. Robert Kozlowsky said, when practical, the department does not make arrests in front of young children, but the circumstances of each case determines officers' actions.
“As a parent, you hear rumblings about what is happening at the bus company … are drivers being drug tested?” the mother said. “This is just the latest incident that casts a shadow of doubt in the confidence of the people in charge of doing the right thing here.”