Minister Lewis warns school bus drivers: Predatory conduct will not be tolerated | SOUALIGA NEWSDAY

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY) - The Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Lyndon Lewis issued a stern warning to all school bus drivers on Tuesday, to refrain from predatory behavior towards the children they are entrusted to transport safely. "Maintain the highest standards of professionalism and ethics while performing your duties or face the consequences," the Minister said. 

This announcement comes in the wake of troubling reports concerning instances of sexual harassment directed towards students by school bus drivers. "This unacceptable behavior. In the span of a few weeks, I have already gotten three complaints with indications of more," the Minister said, adding that while many of these reports detail verbal harassment, a particularly alarming report involved a bus driver taking a student into an alley."

 The Minister has convened an urgent meeting with school bus operators for upcoming Saturday to discuss these issues.

Minister Lewis reminded drivers that their primary responsibility is to ensure the safe and secure transportation of students to and from school. He said parents trust that when they send their children on a school bus, they are placing them in a safe environment. "The recent reports of misconduct are a violation of this trust and an affront to the integrity of the school transportation system," Minister Lewis said.

 The Minister assured the public that thorough investigations are underway. Any bus driver found guilty of such misconduct will face prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. Additionally, the Minister highlighted that suspensions and contract terminations could follow if bus contractors fail to address and rectify such behavior within their ranks.

 "Let me be clear: we have zero tolerance for any form of harassment or predatory behavior towards students. Those responsible will be held accountable. We owe it to our children and their families to ensure that our school buses are a safe haven, not a source of fear," Minister Lewis said. The Minister encouraged parents to report any suspicious or inappropriate behavior towards their children immediately.

The Minister also used the opportunity to stress that government's role in protecting children is a basic tenet of the rights of children which includes ensuring safe environments and maintaining safe public spaces, including schools and transportation systems like school buses.

He further explained that while government departments and personnel do their utmost, more can be done regarding school bus safety in general. He mentioned the strict enforcement of policies governing the conduct of school bus drivers and the operation of school transportation services. This includes ensuring that all school bus drivers undergo thorough background checks and receive training on child protection and professional ethics and establishing a regular monitoring system to oversee the conduct of school bus drivers.