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Mother Charged for Boarding School Bus to Save Her Child

A Perry County, Pennsylvania mother has been charged with a third degree misdemeanor of “unlawful entry into a school bus” when she thought her son was in danger.

According to an article at PennLive.com, Tara Keener saw her 5 year old slumped over on the school bus with kids standing around him screaming for help. Keener, a nurse, rushed onto the bus to save her son Xander who, as it turns out, was only sleeping.

Keener’s boarding the bus violated the law.

The story becomes a case of she said – she said with the bus driver who is a certified nursing assistant. It is as if the mother and the bus driver not only have different recollections of what happened, but one wonders if they were on the same planet the day in question.

The bus company remembers the story a little differently, and reported the incident — as they are required by law — to the state police because the driver asked Keener to leave the bus and she refused.

They say no one was screaming ‘help,’ that Xander was sleeping, like he had before and the driver wasn’t given enough time to handle the situation herself.

We have no idea how much time the bus driver needed, but clearly she had enough time to be more concerned about Keener on the bus than she did with the child’s health.

“[The other children on the bus] moved away and looked at me like they were scared and said they couldn’t wake him,” [Keener] testified. “I had to physically shake him vigorously to wake him.”

Someone isn’t telling the truth. If Keener had enough time to board the bus, rush to her son while a sea of kids parted, and then had to shake her son awake, more than a “few seconds” had passed.

No matter what, this seems like a case where the mother is told “lady, don’t do that again,” and to the bus driver, “be more aware and prioritize.” Both parties learn something and life would go on.

Of course, we would not be reporting on this if it were not for the misdemeanor. The policeman who originally handled the situation told Keener nothing would come of the incident. Five months later, Keener received notification that she was being charged with the third degree misdemeanor where she faces up to a year in jail and a $2500 fine.

But it gets better. In this story we get a second “he said – she said” component. The district attorney that is prosecuting the case said that he charged Keener after speaking with the assistant to the owner of the bus company.

Perry County District Attorney Charles F. Chenot III — who initially said this was one of those situations that could go either way — said he changed his mind after a conversation with Pamala Schaeffer, the assistant to Dennis Dum. Dum’s Bus Service is contracted by West Perry Schools to transport all district children to school each day.

“The bus company’s main point is, we can’t let one person do this because pretty soon you’ll have all kinds of parents on there,” Chenot said. “Most parents aren’t a problem, but what do you do when a … sex offender wants to get on the bus and get his kids off? We need to have that protection in place.”

(NOTE: Chenot’s comparison of a mother boarding a school bus to save her child to a sex offender is ridiculous and offensive.)

Unfortunately, Schaeffer said she did not ask Chenot to press charges. She says that she merely called Chenot to ask if there were other extenuating circumstances like this where a parent could board a school bus. Schaeffer wanted to advise her drivers as to what those circumstances may be.

“I was completely dumfounded, because we thought it was resolved,” she said. “I wasn’t looking to convince him to change his mind,” she said. “I was just asking for my own personal education to know from Mr. Chenot, what determines good cause.”

Chenot stands firm in his belief that bus company was the driving force.

“It was the result of the conversation with the bus company that we ended up moving forward with the charges,” he said.

So basically we have a mother who says she was trying to offer medical assistance to her 5 year old and the bus driver disputing that. The mother disputes the bus driver’s claims as well. At the same time, the not so speedy wheel of justice has the district attorney and the bus company telling two different stories as to why the woman is being prosecuted.

All of this will go in front of a jury.

That’s right, Keener is getting a jury trial on the charges.

We guarantee that the 12 people seated in the jury box will all come to the same conclusion and ask “are you friggin’ kidding me? We are here for this?”

Ah yes, the American justice system at its finest.



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2 Responses to “Mother Charged for Boarding School Bus to Save Her Child”

  1. Dave Gibson says:

    It’s obvious from her comment “I was just asking for my own personal education to know from Mr. Chenot, what determines good cause.”, that Schaeffer was subtly manipulating a weak minded DA, Chenot, into pursuing the charges. I’ve seen this type of subtle manipulation before and you would think that an intelligent DA wouldn’t have fallen for it and realized that it was a leading question that’s only purpose was to make Chenot question whether he was opening a door or not. He should have realized that Schaeffer was asking a question that could not have a definitive answer because emergency situations come in infinite types which would have to be assessed case by case as to being a true emergency.
    What if the bus were in a wreck and the driver was unconscious, or you drove up behind it and saw an adult hiding in the back with a weapon,etc. obviously emergencies that would warrant going on the bus w/o the driver’s permission. But not a parent who wanted to wipe their kids nose or zip his jacket, although those might be a real concern for a parent who was worried about a sick child going to school.
    This DA is an idiot if he let’s this Schaeffer manipulate him like this by asking a question she already knew the answer to, just to stir the pot.

    • AAfterwit says:

      We thought that the school bus company might be trying to manipulate charges against Keener, but we aren’t sure.

      In this day and age of “zero tolerance” in schools brought forth and pushed by layers and parents who always think their little snowflake is an angel, the bus company may be looking for guidance as to what is acceptable

      The example that you give is a good one, but here is another. What if the parent saw or thought they saw their child being attacked on the bus? Is that parent allowed on the bus to save or protect their child?

      We believe that the timing of this case has some relevance. In September, 2010, a mere four months prior to Keener going onto the bus, a father charged onto a school bus in Miami to protect his autistic daughter who was allegedly being bullied. The bus company in Pennsylvania had to know about that incident.

      We find it totally understandable that the bus company wants to know what circumstances would be “just cause” for a parent to board a school bus.

      In both incidents, both parents were acting in the belief their child was in danger or need of assistance. To the bus company, do they stop a parent from getting on the bus based on the perceptions of the parent? Or the perceptions of the driver? Both?

      Think about this as well. If Keener’s child had been in some sort of physical distress and not just sleeping, and the bus driver had not allowed the parent onto the bus, what is the bus company’s liability for that? Would they be held accountable for obeying the law while a child was in trouble?

      With today’s litigious society, we can see the bus company looking for some guidance to instruct their drivers. You may very well be right that the bus company was trying to persuade the DA to prosecute, but if that were the case, why wait so long? Why wait to call him? Why not be calling every week since the incident?

      We’ll never know whether the prosecution was the result of the bus company asking for it, or just a prosecutor gone wild.

      The bottom line is that to us, the prosecution is simply ridiculous.

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