A 16-year-old Strawberry boy has been charged with aggravated assault for threatening a school bus driver while riding the bus from Payson High School to Pine.
The teen-ager and 19 other students aboard the Pine School District bus were so unruly that the substitute bus driver pulled to the side of the road to calm them down, Gila County Sheriff's Deputy Bob Bonney said. The incident, which happened earlier this month, was caught on tape by an on-board video camera, he said.
Pine school officials referred the 16-year-old, who was the only student charged in the incident, to the sheriff's office.
Bonney said the boy attempted to get off the bus when the driver pulled off the road.
"He didn't actually strike the driver," Bonney said. "The kids were unruly and noisy and she pulled off (Highway) 87 on the Control Road and walked to the rear of the bus.
"This young man made it clear that he wanted to get off the bus. He used foul language and threatened to slap her in the face if she tried to stop him from getting off the bus."
Bonney said other students calmed the boy down and managed to diffuse the situation.
"He will not be permitted to ride the bus again," Bonney said. "This is his first offense, but I think the juvenile court needs to deal with him and take some action."
Pine School Principal Kathe Ketchem said, "Assault is an automatic removal (from the school bus) -- permanently."
The 19 other students on the bus received tickets because of their unruly behavior, the principal said.
If the ticket is a first offense, the student and his or her parent will be called in for a conference with the bus driver, she said. With a second offense, the student and parent have another conference and the student is suspended from the bus for 10 days. With a third offense, the student is suspended from the bus for the remainder of the school year.
"Behavior on the bus is a safety issue," Ketchem said. "We do not want the driver distracted. High school students are old enough to ride safely and appropriately, but we hold all students to a high standard for bus behavior. That includes our students from kindergarten through high school."
The complaint against the boy was filed last week with the juvenile probation office in Payson and will be forwarded to the Gila County Attorney's office for review. The county attorney's office will decide whether to pursue the charges.