Concerned parents want elementary, middle school students separated on buses

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PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — After a six-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by an older boy on a school bus in Pender County, parents are demanding elementary and middle school students be separated on buses.

Concerned parents made their thoughts known at a Pender County School Board meeting tonight, saying concerns go beyond this particular incident and that the number of signatures on their petition proves other parents care too.

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The mother of the girl who was allegedly assaulted is remaining anonymous, but three other moms have started a petition in her honor to have the two age groups separated.

“A lot of the five-year-olds are just being exposed to things that they’re not quite ready for, both physically and emotionally,” said Pender County mom Britany Hutchison.

Hutchison says she had to pull her son from the school bus and start driving him to and from school each day.

“Some of the language and content and innuendos being discussed on the bus made him uncomfortable,” she said.

Hutchison says she’s not alone in her concerns. The petition on Change.org asking the school board to separate elementary and middle school students on buses now has more than 700 signatures.

During the school board meeting, Hutchison presented a few ideas on how to accomplish this.

“Three separate start times so that the buses could finish one route, do the second route, then the third route,” she said.

Another idea would be adding more school bus supervisors to keep an eye on students.

“I realize that there are a lot of things that go into the decision making, and there are probably things beyond control,” Hutchison said, “but at least if we could get them talking, so that we can have the topic on the agenda, hopefully next month.”

A Pender County Schools spokesperson says the school board has started to discuss the issue and is reaching out to advisory groups to discuss potential solutions.