"This is infuriating to believe someone who is trusted with these children on a daily basis could put them in danger," the police chief said.
When parents send their little ones to school, their only hope is that their kids will be in safe and trustworthy hands from the moment they leave the house to the moment they are back. On November 15, 2019, a group of parents in Illinois did not expect the callousness of the school bus driver who did not see any harm in drinking while driving their little children to school.
44-year-old Michelle Passley from North Aurora, employed as the bus driver by East Aurora School District 131 had picked up the school bus at 6 am. She reportedly decided to stop at a Speedway gas station after completing one route, according to Chicago Tribune. While she stopped, she bought herself two cans of beer, got back into the bus, and continued driving her young passengers.
In some of the videos recorded, Michelle Passley was seen to have placed a beer can in a brown paper bag and drank from it while she was at the wheel, with 32 elementary school children riding the bus under her purview.
Thankfully, an "observant" clerk at the convenience store had seen Michelle Passley buying the beer and then getting into the driver's seat of the bus. According to a police statement, the clerk rang up the East Aurora School District 131 to inform the concerned officials, as reported by NBC News.
On getting the tip-off, officials at the East Aurora School District 131 didn't waste any time and immediately contacted the company that they had a contract with, i.e., the First Student Bus Company. The company sieved through their videos and found that the 44-year-old driver was indeed driving under influence. The footage shows Passley drinking from the beer cans covered in brown paper bag, all whilst picking up the little children from their stops.
The police were immediately alerted and the Aurora Police Department and the Department of Child and Family Services were involved. After the investigation was carried out, Michelle Passley was arrested and was charged with two Class A Misdemeanor counts of Endangering the Life/Health of a child, according to CNN.
"It’s absolutely brazen," said Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman. "We have zero tolerance for this when you place children in danger and we want to highlight the fact that but for that convenience store clerk, we’d be none the wiser."
After being released on a bond of $100, Michelle Passley is due to appear at the Aurora Branch Court on December 27, 2019.
The police chief also added, "When we put our children on a school bus in the morning, the idea is that we have placed our kids in the safekeeping of someone who is going to take good care of them. This is infuriating to believe someone who is trusted with these children on a daily basis could put them in danger."
First Student also fired the woman for her disturbing actions and said in a statement, "There is nothing more important than the safety of the students we transport. We understand and share in the concern this incident has caused. We are incredibly disappointed by our former driver’s actions. First Student has a zero-tolerance policy for employees whose actions may put others at risk."
Although such incidents, where the innocent's lives are put at risk, should never take place, Kristen Ziman did appreciate the convenience store clerk for promptly informing officials. While talking about the incident, the police chief said, "There are two very strong messages going out: That it's not tolerated, and that we need the community's involvement."