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Could monitoring devices aid probe into school bus incident?

Published 6:41 am, Friday, October 26, 2012
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Westport police have confirmed that a camera and audio system were installed on the school bus where the driver apparently erupted last week in a profane and sexually explicit outburst in front of Coleytown Middle School students.

However, police could not confirm as of Thursday whether the equipment was functional and could provide evidence of what transpired on the Oct. 18 afternoon route of bus No. 16.

"We continue to conduct an in-depth investigation," police Capt. Sam Arciola said Thursday. "Unfortunately, it has taken a little longer than we hoped, because we have a number of people we need to talk to. We will keep working closely with the Board of Education and DATTCO (the school district's transportation provider) until we complete the investigation."

No charges have been filed against the driver as of Thursday, Arciola said.

The driver, whose name has not been disclosed, has been suspended since the afternoon of Oct. 18, when parents and students said he launched a tirade that frightened his middle school passengers, prompting some to get off the bus before their scheduled stops.

But that response, however, has not satisfied a number of the parents of students on the bus that afternoon. Several of those parents told the Board of Education on Monday the driver also made inappropriate references to his sexual experience during the bus' morning run Oct. 18. They faulted school officials, especially Transportation Coordinator Sandra Evangelista, for failing to pull the driver off the route before the afternoon run.

During the contentious board meeting, Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon defended Evangelista's handling of the incident and dismissed a claim by one of the bus No. 16 parents that Evangelista had not returned parent phone calls as "totally without substance" and "an exaggeration of truth."

Landon has not spoken publicly about the incident since the Monday education board meeting.

He did not return a call for comment.

The school district so far has not made Evangelista available for comment on the incident.

DATTO management reports the driver had not been involved in any previous incidents and had passed all of his pre-employment screenings and background checks.

"It's not a situation that we could have seen coming," DATTCO Chief Operations Officer Cliff Gibson said Wednesday. "We're simply, at this point, ensuring that we conduct a thorough investigation so that we can make the best possible choices."

DATTCO's investigation into the incident will continue "as long as it takes to get the facts," Gibson added.

pschott@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott