Bus driver arrested on school trip City asked to probe traffic incident

May 23, 1992|By Jay Merwin | Jay Merwin,Staff Writer

School bus driver Wenda K. Bollinger ended her routine field trip run from Sykesville Middle School to the Maryland Science Center with her wrists in handcuffs, a police strip search and a few hours in jail.

On Wednesday, Ms. Bollinger was driving the last of four buses carrying students from the Carroll County school to the Science Center. Her problems began after the buses stopped to discharge the students. The rear end of Ms. Bollinger's bus protruded onto Key Highway and a plainclothes police officer thumped on the windows and ordered her to move the vehicle.

Ms. Bollinger told the officer that she wanted to finish unloading schoolchildren and asked the officer to display her badge. Ms. Bollinger shut the window on the officer after the officer showed identification but was unable to produce a badge.

After the children had left the bus and gone into the Science Center, Ms. Bollinger moved the bus. By then, more officers had arrived to arrest her and whisk her off in a police wagon.

That's the account provided by Carroll County schools authorities, who are backing up Ms. Bollinger, and by her lawyer.

"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."

Uncertain how Ms. Bollinger would handle the return trip after the ordeal, the school system sent another driver to Baltimore to substitute for her, Mr. Hyde said.

Her lawyer, Ralph T. Uebersax of Westminster, said his client was back at work, but still "upset" about being cuffed, strip-searched and jailed.

Asked whether his client was planning to sue over the incident, Mr. Uebersax would only say, "We're considering all possibilities."

Mr. Uebersax said the result so far has been "something the mayor wouldn't like to hear, that the men in blue are not ambassadors of good will."

Ms. Bollinger, who is 36 and lives in Mount Airy, was charged with failure to show her driver's license and registration on demand and failure to obey a police officer, according to police spokesman Sam Ringgold.

Mr. Ringgold confirmed most of the other accounts of Ms. Bollinger's arrest, but could not say whether the officer produced a police badge.

The Carroll County schools administration has asked city officials to investigate Ms. Bollinger's treatment.

Anthony Jones, an aide to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, said the mayor had asked the city police commissioner to look into the incident. The mayor will also be sending letters of regret and 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 police spokesman, Mr. Ringgold, said that a review of the incident would also deal with unloading procedures at the Science Center. "Wednesday's incident was not the first time buses down there were blocking traffic," he said.

But Kathleen Ward, a spokeswoman for the Science Center, said 5,000 buses come through the lot each year without incident.

"We're not going to go head-to-head with the Police Department on this," she said. "But we've never had a problem like this before."

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