Frustrated parents demand answers, policy change following alleged sexual abuse on school bus
SANDY — The father of a special needs child gave the Canyons School Board a sharp reproach Tuesday on its response after a bus driver was arrested for allegedly sexually abusing a girl he drove to school.
Scott Askew stood on behalf of nearly 20 concerned parents, grandparents, neighbors and other relatives of special needs children who rode John Martin Carrell's bus. The group left with no answers from board members, who merely implied an independent investigation might be ongoing.
Carrell, 61, of Draper, is charged with 23 counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony. He is accused of abusing a young girl with special needs whom he drove to and from Altara Elementary School in Sandy since the beginning of the school year.
Askew expressed ongoing frustration as the board has remained tight-lipped alongside the school district's administration ever since the allegations became public.
"So far it appears the school board has decided to hunker down in favor of school district administration," Askew told to board during a public comment period. "It is not your job to protect employees of the Canyons School District, especially when those employees have put special needs students risk, failed to properly notify law enforcement and parents of those risks, and distorted the truth to the media."
Askew said he and other parents are calling on board members to launch an independent investigation into the abuse and the district's response, and they're asking for a change to district policy to require aides be assigned on all special needs busses.
His 13-year-old daughter, who is nonverbal, was a passenger on Caroll's bus, and his family has been tensely waiting for police to conclude their investigation.
Canyons School Board member Tracy Scott Cowdell told Askew he appreciated the reminder of the board's duties, but implied that more might be going on behind the scenes than parents are aware.
"Just because it isn't obvious that certain things might or might not be being done, doesn't mean it's not happening," Cowdell said. "Just because we haven't announced that there's been an independent investigation doesn't mean one hasn't been done."
Cowdell said legal procedures limit what the district and school board can say publicly about the investigation.
Another parent in the crowd, David Kingsbury, called out from his seat in frustration following Cowdell's remarks.
"Why not vote tonight just to put an aide on each bus?" Kingsbury asked.
Sherril Taylor of the Canyons School Board responded, saying only that parents' input is being seriously considered.
Kingsbury said he and his wife are is considering moving their daughter, who will start seventh grade this fall, to another school. They have also considered requiring a personal aide for their daughter while she is in school.
"As far as we know, there's no independent investigation going on. They're not telling us anything," Kingsbury said as he left the meeting. "It's really concerning as a parent that they're not being more forthright with us."
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