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Parents of Draper children fire off scathing letter to Canyons School District

Published: Tuesday, May 27 2014 5:50 p.m. MDT

A Canyons School District bus drives near Altara Elementary in Sandy Tuesday, May 13, 2014.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News Archives

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DRAPER — Parents of the children who were driven to school by a bus driver charged with sexually abusing a young girl on his route for months have issued a scathing open letter to the Canyons School District asking it to restore public trust.

The open letter sent Tuesday was written and signed by "The Dissatisfied Parents of the Draper Park Middle School Students with Special Needs Assigned to the Route of John Martin Carrell." The parents are calling for the Canyons School Board to hire an independent investigator to answer questions surrounding the employment of Carrell and the apparent decision by district officials not to inform police or parents in Draper connected to his bus routes.

Last week, Carrell, 61, was charged with 23 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child for allegedly abusing a 5-year-old girl with special needs whom he drove to and from Altara Elementary School, 800 E. 11000 South. Carrell also drove children with special needs to Draper Park Middle School, 13133 S. 1300 East.

But parents in Draper said between April 24, the day Sandy police were notified, and May 12, when the abuse was first reported by the media, neither they nor the Draper Police Department were notified by the district that Carrell was under investigation even though he had also driven their children to school.

"Over the past two weeks we have been shocked at the callous disregard by Canyons School District officials with respect to the welfare of our children. We believe that the school district has violated the public trust with its actions," the Draper parents wrote in their letter.

Just recently, it was discovered that Carrell also drove one student on a third route to Oak Hollow, according to the parents.

The parents also claim that even after the district was notified by the alleged victim's parents of the allegations on April 23, they "inexplicably" allowed Carrell to drive his route the next morning before he met with district officials and was at that time suspended.

Canyons spokeswoman Jennifer Toomer-Cook clarified Tuesday that the phone call to the district by the victim's family on April 23 was made after hours and it was handled immediately the next business day.

Carol, who asked that her last name not be used, has a 13-year-old daughter who rode Carrell's bus in Draper and is one of the co-signers of the letter. Her daughter has the mental capacity of a 5-year-old and cannot speak. If her daughter was being abused, she would not have been able to tell anyone, she said.

"It's sickening. I haven't been able to sleep or eat for a week just thinking about it," she said. "We may never know if she was abused."

Early last week, Draper police announced they had begun their own investigation into Carrell. At the time, there was no evidence of abuse, although police noted they were still early in the investigation.

Toomer-Cook said the district wanted to contact the people whom it felt it needed to alert while still trying to maintain the integrity of the police investigation.

"Our strategy has been to work with police so justice can be served. That's our strategy," she said. "We did not want to compromise an active police investigation. We received the report, we followed up on the report, and we reported what we saw as potentially criminal and evidence to the corresponding police agency."

But Draper parents believe they, too, should have been notified.

"To focus just on Sandy is negligent," Carol said. "It seems like (the district is) more interested in their liability legally than they are about the kids' safety."

Carol and the other parents would like to meet with district officials to talk about policies. But, as of Tuesday, the group members said they have been rejected three times in their requests for a meeting.

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