Pennsylvania school bus driver duct-taped student into his seat, DA says

Tribune Content Agency

PHILADELPHIA — A bus driver for the Upper Darby School District who is accused of duct taping a 10-year-old student’s ankles faces criminal charges, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Juliet Pratt, 55, has been charged with false imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a child in the incident, which allegedly took place March 8 as she drove her usual bus route. Other charges, including unlawful restraint, were dismissed by a district judge at Pratt’s preliminary hearing earlier this month, court records show.

Pratt was released after posting 10% of her $25,000 bail. Her attorney, Arthur Donato, did not return a request for comment.

Investigators were first notified of the alleged abuse by staff at Hillcrest Elementary, where the child is a student, according to the affidavit of probable cause for Pratt’s arrest.

Officers reviewed surveillance footage from Pratt’s bus, which showed her duct taping the student’s ankles together as he sat buckled into his seat, the affidavit said. Pratt later returned to the student and placed more tape on his chest.

Detectives noted in their report that the student was not seen trying to leave his seat or moving erratically before Pratt taped him.

When the bus arrived at the school, Pratt is seen in the video removing the tape away with a seat belt cutter and throwing it in the trash, according to the affidavit.

In an interview, Pratt admitted to duct-taping the student, and told detectives she had done so before.

A spokesperson for Upper Darby School District did not return a request for comment about whether Pratt is still employed as a bus driver.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said Tuesday there was “no excuse” for Pratt’s conduct.

“Using duct tape on a child who was already fully restrained in the vehicle’s harness was not only inexcusable, it was also dangerous,” he said. “Had an accident occurred, this child would have been unable to free himself from the tape.”