4 On Your Side investigation prompts school bus driver's suspension

Posted at: 11/25/2013 10:31 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

An Albuquerque school bus driver was suspended after 4 On Your Side uncovered allegations that she let adult strangers ride her bus for months.

According to more than three dozen handwritten student complaints from Wilson Middle School, driver Sonya Garcia repeatedly let family or friends of hers ride the bus where they allegedly threatened students.

In one instance in late October, a female student said a man called her "gorgeous" and said he offered to have sex with her in a school bathroom.

After 4 On Your Side received that statement from a source, the team attended a parent council meeting early on a Saturday morning when transportation issues were addressed.  Parents said they've been concerned about all the buses that serve Wilson for years.

"It's problem, problem, problem," parent David Guardado said.

Roger Garcia and Larry Madrid – the co-directors of transportation for Albuquerque Public Schools – said they were aware of the general concerns, but said parents need to speak up more often about specific problems.

"Sometimes we hear about it, sometimes we don't," Garcia said.

Denny Beal, the owner of Beal Bus Company that contracts with Albuquerque Public Schools, said he's not ignoring any of the complaints.

"Whenever we have issues on [a] bus, whether I go to them or they come to me, they get resolved," Beal told a group of about two dozen parents.

After the meeting, Beal said the sexual comments are something "that's not tolerated."

Less than two weeks after the meeting, 4 On Your Side's source said Garcia allowed a man – possibly her boyfriend – to ride the bus after APS police first escorted him off.  The source said Garcia picked him up at a fast food restaurant a few blocks from the school.

More than 30 students who were on the bus wrote statements saying that the man called them "snitches" and proceeded to threaten them once more.

After the incident, 4 On Your Side confronted Garcia on the same day school security personnel prevented her from driving her afternoon bus route.

"I don't need to talk to you," Garcia said.

She demanded that 4 On Your Side get away from her.  At the same time, an APS transportation employee threatened to call police arguing that 4 On Your Side did not have permission to be on school property.

Garcia eventually left in an empty bus at the request of Beal Bus Company dispatchers.  The students that normally ride it were taken home by a different bus driver.

Since the confrontation, 4 On Your Side learned that Garcia was placed on unpaid suspension pending an investigation by Beal Bus Company and Albuquerque Public Schools.

In a statement sent to KOB Eyewitness News 4 Monday afternoon, APS communications personnel stated, in part, "APS Police and APD have and will continue to investigate any allegations where appropriate."