Montgomery County Public Schools leaders address parents questions about student bus safety

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ROCKVILLE, Md. – Hard questions and uneasy answers came one after another at a meeting Wednesday of Montgomery County Public Schools’ Special Education Advisory Committee.

It was called in response to the August 5 arrest of Etienne Kabongo, 62, of Gaithersburg, a school bus driver that worked in the district for 12 years.

Kabongo is in jail charged with three criminal counts tied to an alleged sexual assault that happened on a school bus on July 31. Montgomery County Police said the victim was 12 years old and nonverbal.

Schools leaders said the incident was caught on multiple videos mounted inside the bus.

Parents want changes within the school system. Some ideas that were brought up include adding another adult to the bus so that when bus assistants leave to help students get from and to their homes there’s another adult on board.

Other parents want a change to the system that would allow the school district to keep video recordings on the bus longer than 1 to 2 months. They also suggested assigning someone to monitor those video recordings or oversee them in real time.

Montgomery County Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Andrew Zuckerman said their entire policy regarding student safety is under review. He told the parents that school leaders thought cameras would be enough of a deterrent to protect students but now are rethinking that strategy.

Some parents said the school district should be more proactive in preventing attacks on children and pointed to several area cases as proof that enough was not being done.

Zuckerman countered that notion by arguing that it’s because of outreach and education that more people are more aware and responsive to dangerous situations. He said the fact that there are more cases being reported is a testament to how aggressive the district has been on educating students, teachers and staff of the warning signs.

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