Keokuk County Attorney chooses to not file charges against a former Tri-County school bus driver

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 8:11 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Keokuk County Attorney’s Office said on Tuesday it will not file charges against a former Tri-County school bus driver, Amy Leer, after an investigation found she duct-taped elementary school students.

Amber Thompson, who is the county attorney for Keokuk County, said an investigation with the Keokuk County Sheriff’s Office found Leer did duct tape children. However, she said, “her actions, apparent intentions and circumstances surrounding the incidents do not rise to the level to meet the elements of a crime as defined by Iowa Code.”

Thompson said duct-taping students is inappropriate, but proving it as a crime is “difficult.”

“The investigation revealed that the duct taping appeared to be done in fun at the request of the children and removed quickly, all while children were laughing or smiling,” she said in an email to TV9. “While this behavior certainly was not appropriate, I believe it would be difficult to prove she committed a crime.”

Iowa code says child endangerment can occur when someone commits an act with an unreasonable force that causes physical, mental, or emotional harm to a child.

The Tri-County School District allowed Leer to resign from the district as a school bus driver after the incident in March. Our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team has tried to use Iowa’s open record laws to receive the video that was taken on the bus. However, the district has denied our requests citing confidential student and employee information that cannot be disclosed under state and federal law. TV9 has routinely received videos in the past for other stories about bus accidents.

Chad Straight, who is the superintendent for the district, declined an on-camera interview about the subject because the incident relates to sensitive student information.

“Your inquiry relates to sensitive student information, and I do not believe it is appropriate to make a statement regarding the situation,” Straight said. “As always, we appreciate the effort of local law enforcement in responding to and handling any situation that arises at the District.”

Parents of the children on the bus were allowed to see the video at the courthouse Tuesday. Misty Ruggles, who was one of those parents, said watching the video was extremely difficult.

She said she saw the video of kids walking on the bus and ask the bus driver for duct tape. Ruggles said kids would then put their arms together and the bus driver would wrap up their hands in duct tape three times.

She said at least one of her children who was duct-taped developed a fear of going back on a bus.

“My kids actually brought her back home because she was screaming and crying,” Ruggles said. “She didn’t want to go to school and then got home and started screaming and having a fit. Because she wanted to go to school but she wanted me to take her. She didn’t want to ride the bus.”

Ruggles said her children told her it started as a disciplinary tactic that turned into a game.

Multiple parents told TV9 that the announcement that charges wouldn’t be filed was made to parents with children on the bus on Tuesday.

Savannah Barr, who also had a child on the bus, said watching the video they showed was hard to watch. However, she believes there is more video that hasn’t been shown to the parents. She also said her child didn’t want to go on the bus either.

“Like every day it was a fight to get him on the bus because he didn’t want to ride the bus,” Barr said. “It was just horrible.”

Both Ruggles and Barr said they are scared Leer will begin driving a school bus for another school district.

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