Anne Arundel County school officials have launched an investigation into parents' complaints of a chaotic school bus No. 55 that carried their children to and from Rippling Woods Elementary School.
Martha Collison, director of schools in Glen Burnie and Millersville, told parents yesterday about the probe.
Meanwhile, school principal Norbert Paga sent home a letter with bus No. 55 students, telling their parents that different buses with different drivers would pick them up in the morning and take them home in the afternoon.
Ms. Collison assured parents yesterday that the principal and the new bus drivers each will remind students of bus rules.
Parents charged that the bus No. 55 driver played tapes of rock songs with obscenity-laced lyrics that mentioned rape, sex and violence. Older children taught the younger ones the lyrics and others danced about the aisles. Children hung from air vents, stood on seats, played football and wrestled in the aisles, the parents said.
In a letter to other Rippling Woods parents, Mary Donadoni and Lauren Ward complained that some girls were let out of class early to clean the bus. Another was assigned by the driver to stand near him and open and close the door at each stop. Some girls, assigned to act as bus police, were cursed by other children, they said.
School officials would not identify the driver.
Mrs. Ward began complaining about conditions on the bus last fall, but stopped after other children began verbally abusing her 9-year-old daughter, she said.
She began distributing her letter last week.
Perry Dillon Jr., owner of Pedco Inc., the bus company, drove the children home Friday afternoon and picked them up Monday morning, Ms. Collison said.
The children behaved properly then, said Mrs. Ward, who followed the bus.
"Those children did not move a muscle," Mrs. Ward said. "It was the difference between night and day."
Ms. Donadoni said her 9-year-old daughter slapped a boy in the face several weeks ago because he pulled her hair and tried to force her to kiss him.
The same boy struck her in the face March 13, she said.
"The opportunity for real tragedy is very great," Ms. Donadoni said.
She and her husband, Charlie Macfarlane, met privately for about an hour yesterday with Ms. Collison; school Principal Norbert Paga; Gerry Kabo, supervisor of transportation for schools in that area; and Mr. Dillon.
Afterward, Ms. Collison met for a half-hour with about eight other parents in the school's cafeteria. The parents said the driver should have reported the children's disruptive behavior and should be removed from his job permanently.
Bus drivers who don't report such behavior "are being negligent in their job," Ms. Collison told the parents.
She said it is "beyond my belief" that the driver would ask children to clean the bus and that it "really is not appropriate for the radio to be on when children are on the bus."
She said Mr. Paga was unaware that the girls were leaving school early and is investigating that.
Mr. Kabo is handling the investigation of the bus driver, she said.
Mr. Kabo, Mr. Paga and Mr. Dillon declined to comment.
Nancy Jane Adams, a spokeswoman for the schools, said the parents' complaints were "handled according to procedure and policy."
But parents said they wanted Mr. Paga reprimanded for being unresponsive.
Ms. Collison said she would not discuss personnel issues.
"They hide behind the confidentiality issue and then they don't have to tell you anything," complained Ms. Donadoni.