A Sykesville Middle School field trip to the Maryland Science Center turned into a spectacle as a plainclothes police officer demanded that the bus be moved and later had the driver handcuffed and whisked off in a police wagon.
As a result, the Carroll County schools administration asked City Hall to investigate the treatment of the driver, who had said she wouldn't move because the bus was only half unloaded, and because the officer didn't show a badge.
"My understanding is the driver acted properly by saying, 'I need to see some ID,' " said William H. Hyde, the assistant superintendent of Carroll schools. "You have to make sure you're not just dealing with an irate person."
Anthony Jones, head of public relations for Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, said the mayor had asked the city police commissioner to investigate the incident.
The mayor will also be sending letters expressing his concern about it to the mayor of Sykesville and the principal of the school, Mr. Jones said. "It just seemed to be miscommunication between two people."
The run-in with police happened Wednesday after four buses full of Sykesville Middle students pulled into the Science Center to unload. But there wasn't quite enough room for the fourth bus. The back of it stuck out into the street, Mr. Hyde said.
When a plainclothes police officer pulled up in an unmarked car and banged on the bus windows with orders to move, Mr. Hyde said, the driver asked for identification, but the driver produced only an ID, not a badge. The driver shut the window, he said, and allowed the unloading of children to continue.
Within minutes, the officer called more officers to arrest the driver, Mr. Hyde said. But by then the children had gone inside.
"The kids were unloaded and didn't witness the handcuffing," he said, though a teacher and some science center staff stayed to protest the arrest and asked why the police couldn't simply issue a traffic ticket.
Uncertain how the driver would handle the return trip after her ordeal, Mr. Hyde said, the school system sent another driver to Baltimore to substitute for the briefly imprisoned one.
Baltimore police spokesman Sam Ringgold said the driver, Wenda K. Bollinger, 36, of Mount Airy, was arrested for failure to show her driver's license and registration on demand.
He could not say, however, whether the plainclothes officer showed a badge in identifying herself to Ms. Bollinger.
The arrest was made after the children were off the bus and the driver had moved it, he said.
The police, transportation officials and Science Center staff will meet today about how to improve the unloading of buses at the Key Highway entrance to the building, Mr. Ringgold said.
"Wednesday's incident was not the first time buses down there were blocking traffic," he said.