UPDATE: Columbia school bus driver accused of striking boy, 7

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 | 5:44 p.m. CDT; updated 5:54 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 18, 2014

COLUMBIA — A school bus driver has been charged with third-degree assault in connection with a March 7 incident in which he is accused of striking a 7-year-old boy in the face with papers, police said. The child was not injured.

A concerned parent notified Shepard Boulevard Elementary School late last week that a bus driver had hit a student on the morning bus route, Shepard Principal Jacquie Ward said.

Ward then requested the tape of the bus ride. First Student, the company in charge of bus service for the district, on Monday gave Ward the tape from the morning route. 

When she reviewed the tape, Ward said, she saw the bus driver slap a student across the face with a stack of papers. She said it wasn't clear what precipitated the incident.

Ward also received the surveillance tape of the afternoon route from the bus company. She said she could hear the driver using "rude and inappropriate" language on the tape. She also said that during the ride home, the driver missed the stop for the child he had struck that morning. When the child attempted to inform the driver of the error, he continued to use inappropriate language, she said.

The school notified the Columbia Police Department, who informed the child's parents, Ward said.

School district administrators, First Student and the Missouri Department of Social Services' Children's Division were also notified.

"We jumped in and did all we could as fast as we could," Ward said. "We've followed protocol exactly."

Ward said that the mother of the child had been very supportive of the school and that the parents wanted to press charges against the driver.

Police identified the driver as 55-year-old Robert H. Braid. He was released after being issued a summons on a third-degree-assault charge.

Jen Biddinger, a spokeswoman for First Student, said in a statement to the Missourian that the "safety and security of the students we transport is our core value and a responsibility we take very seriously."

First Student is conducting an internal review of the incident and is assisting police with the investigation, Biddinger said. The bus driver has been pulled from service for now.

Supervising editor is Edward Hart.

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