Lawrence school bus monitor cited, suspended after reportedly pepper-spraying student

An adult school bus monitor who reportedly pepper-sprayed a student was given a ticket for battery and has been suspended by the bus company.

The disturbance happened shortly after 3 p.m. Friday near 1600 Haskell Ave., after an argument on a bus that serves the Juvenile Detention Center, according to the school district.

The attendant, a 46-year-old woman, reported to police that a 17-year-old female student lunged at her in a threatening manner, and that the attendant then used pepper spray to subdue the student, Officer Drew Fennelly of the Lawrence Police Department said.

However, Fennelly said the teen appeared to be the victim.

“An officer reviewed security footage from the bus and did not observe the threatening actions that were described,” he said.

Fennelly said the 17-year-old girl involved in the argument was exposed to the spray, along with another girl, 14.

A previous story in the Journal-World incorrectly reported that the 17-year-old was cited for battery.

The monitor has been suspended pending the outcome of the municipal court case and the bus company’s own internal review of the incident, said Jen Biddinger, a national spokeswoman for First Student.

“She is not serving as a monitor or working in any capacity for us right now,” Biddinger said.

Biddinger said bus monitors, part-time employees of First Student, are primarily placed on special needs routes such as those with physically disabled students or the detention center route.

“They’re there to assist the driver with students,” Biddinger said. “They’re really just an extra set of eyes and ears and hands.”

There were four total students on the bus, plus the driver and monitor, Lawrence public schools spokeswoman Julie Boyle said Friday, in a news release. She said two involved students reported being affected by a burning sensation on their faces, and an ambulance was called to check them but no one was taken to a hospital.

Boyle said Tuesday that in addition to First Student notifying parents, the school district contacted families to check on the students’ welfare. She said no health concerns were shared with the district.

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