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Questions after sexual abuse case on Sitka school bus

Posted: February 26, 2012 - 12:09am

Sitka schools’ policy allows for older students to ride in buses for younger classmates — something officials say is not uncommon in rural areas, superintendent Steve Bradshaw said.

But Bradshaw says since the young man was charged, his office has received some questions about the district’s busing practices.

“It’s always been an assumption, that when we have kids riding with younger kids they’re separated,” Bradshaw said. “We always wanted the different age kids riding with the bus driver where we could keep an eye on them. Most of our drivers are aware of keeping the kids separated.”

There has been no written policy to this effect, Bradshaw said, and problems have been rare related to buses.

“In my 14 years I’ve been here, I could count the number of bus issues we’ve had on one hand,” the superintendent said. “That’s not to say bad behaviors don’t happen.”

Alexander Pitkaphillip Evans was indicted by a grand jury Feb. 17 on one count of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and four counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor. He is being held on $100,000 bail.

Evans entered a plea of not guilty.

The abuse reportedly occurred on an elementary school bus, where an older student had taken the elementary kids’ bus in order to arrive at school early.

“We do have a policy in general that the kids ride the buses they’re supposed to, unless there are special needs,” said Gene Prewitt, owner of Island Bus Company, which is contracted by the school district to provide bus services.

There are exceptions, Bradshaw and Prewitt said. Sometimes a child will miss his or her bus and flag down any passing bus for a ride into town, or a student needs to get to school early. The student who is either younger or older than the group on the bus generally sits near the driver, Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw said he and school board members will talk about whether a new written and formal policy is needed for ridership, but the superintendent questioned whether it would be an improvement.

“When you look at how all the years we’ve been doing this and you don’t have problems,” Bradshaw said. “I understand that one situation is one too many. A little common sense on the bus and the problem is taken care of. ... We can’t write a policy that will cover every situation - the more detailed you become, the more difficult it is to understand what your policies are.”

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