Milford school bus driver charged in window closing incident during May ride home

Teresa A. Grunden

MILFORD — Some children reportedly feared for their lives and others cried after a school bus driver allegedly closed all windows and air vents while trying to quiet them during a ride home on May 31, resulting in heat-related symptoms instead, according to police Thursday.

Teresa A. Grunden, 54, of Houston, was arrested Wednesday after investigation into the alleged incident near the end of the last school year, Milford Police spokesman Sgt. Robert Masten said in a news release. She pleaded not guilty to six misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child and given a no-contact order with the children on the bus she was driving, court documents said.

“Most of the students made personal fans, appeared agitated, some were upset and most appeared affected by the heat inside the bus,” a Milford Police officer wrote in a probable cause affidavit.

“She repeatedly told them that she did not care and that they could tell their parents whatever they wanted.”

A parent first reported a possible incident to Milford Police on May 31, a probable cause affidavit said. A warrant for Ms. Grunden’s arrest was obtained after the Delaware Attorney General’s Office reviewed the case after contact by police, Sgt. Masten said. The Milford School District cooperated throughout the investigation, authorities said.

According to the affidavit, Ms. Grunden was contracted by Houston-based RTK Transportation. Attempts to reach the company for comment Thursday were unsuccessful.

On Thursday, Milford School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Dickerson responded to media questions with a statement that read, “Maintaining the safety and welfare of our students is an absolute priority.

“We intend to let the criminal justice system work appropriately in this case. This person is not an employee of the Milford School District, thus we have no further comment.”

Police said investigation found that Ms. Grunden pulled the bus over near Airport Road at the Milford Early Childhood Center after earlier leaving from Benjamin Banneker Elementary School.

“This was in response to the children being too loud,” Sgt. Masten said.

Children 6 to 11

The children on the bus referenced as No. 22 in documents ranged from ages 6 to 11, police said. According to police, six of them reported “related symptoms to parents as they arrived home.”

According to police in documents, Ms. Grunden “had told the students that they were being loud and not listening to her.

“She proceeded to pull the bus around the rear of the daycare center and told the students that she could keep them in the heat as long as she wanted and waited.

“The students’ behavior did not appear to change to her satisfaction and she got up closing all of the windows on the bus and shut the air vents on the ceiling on the bus.”

According to police, the students “became even more rowdy and she called her contractor.”

The school district reported it was informed “that the contractor told her to continue the route and that she did advise him that the windows were up. It was later determined that her window was open and one side window that she evidently missed while closing them,” the affidavit said.

Police said the temperature was 76 degrees at the time of the incident listed as taking place between 2:25 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. and the humidity was at least 88 percent.

“The students complained about the heat along the route,” police wrote in the affidavit.

“Some were saying they felt like they were sick. Some said what if they died in there. Some students were crying.”

One student got up to inform the driver he wasn’t screaming, police said.

A parent reported that her two children appeared red faced and “feeling extremely hot unable to cool down with fluid,” when they arrived home.

“She stated that she sent the children outside to stand in the rain to cool down,” police wrote. “It was noted that it was not raining when the driver closed all of the windows and the air vents.”

Cooling kids down

The parent told police it began raining after the kids got home, according to documents.

“She said they finally cooled back down when they came back into the air conditioning in the house while wet from the rain,” police said.

Also interviewed were the grandmother and aunt of three other children, police said.

“All three of the children arrived home crying and feeling nauseous from the heat on the bus,” the affidavit stated. “This officer spoke with all three children who stated that they all felt like they were going to throw up.”

A boy told police “that he almost did but held it down.”

One child involved reportedly had ADHD, police said and a student “can be seen getting off the bus clearly hot in the face, sweaty and weary.”

When two students got off the bus, according to the affidavit, Ms. Grunden allegedly said “that it was a bad bus ride and they had to ride with the windows up. (Name redacted) later advised this officer that she was frustrated with that comment.”

Milford School District contacted parents on the bus in question, police said, and another student was found to have suffered nausea.

One parent reported that her son “came home with his pants rolled up to his thighs and was overheated and nauseous.”

The boy “did throw up quite a bit after the bus ride,” police said. “She stated that he was feeling ill all evening and even over the next few days. She advised that (name redacted) did go to school the following day adding that he loves school but his mother stated he was clearly not completely well.”

The parent told police the child was “diagnosed with NS1.”

School administrators said “that a number of parents that hey spoke to voiced concerns over the temperament of the driver and how she negatively interacts with the students,” police said in the affidavit.”

Ms. Grunden was presented at Justice of the Peace Court 7 in Dover and given a $1,000 unsecured bail. An arraignment in Kent County Family Court was scheduled for Sept. 17.

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