Deputies: Dean of students failed to report bus driver's abuse

- The dean of students at Horizons Elementary School was arrested for failing to report the sexual battery of young special needs students by a bus driver in Polk County, the sheriff's office said Tuesday.

"He's lucky I can't get my hands on him," said one parent outside Horizons Elementary school in Davenport.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office said two different students reported the abuse to 34-year-old Courtney Stanley on April 8 and April 12, but Stanley never reported the information to DCF, school officials, or law enforcement.

"The dean of students said, 'you know, this 10-year-old says crazy things all the time,' so he just dismissed it," said Sheriff Grady Judd. "Courtney says, 'If he does it again, let me know.'"

When a school counselor was told about the abuse by the same two witnesses on April 13, the counselor immediately reported it to DCF and school officials.

"When a child alleges conduct like this, remember, the more bizarre it is, the greater the chance it is the truth because you can't make this stuff up," said Judd.

The two students said they witnessed the suspect, Carlos Ojeda, 72, sexually abusing young special needs girls who ride his bus.

"They kept telling people until someone listened," said Judd.

When investigators checked the school bus surveillance video, they saw video of Ojeda motioning to the girls and flashing candy from the stairwell of the parked bus.

After Ojeda was arrested, Stanley tried to call DCF.

"How difficult is it to say you don't have to make a determination, you don't have to do an evaluation, we are your professional detectives, just make the phone call," Sheriff Judd said.

Once a girl was within arm's length, the video allegedly shows Ojeda pulling her toward him and sexually battering her out of view of the other students by touching her under her clothing. He then gave her candy before she headed back to her seat.

Superintendent Jackie Byrd was at Judd's press conference on Tuesday. She said proper procedures were in place and that all employees are trained to follow the law. Any allegations of abuse are to be immediately reported.

"I want the parents to know that we are very saddened," said Byrd. "We are very sorry."

As detectives interviewed Ojeda, the driver confessed to the crimes caught on camera and told investigators about two additional victims -- one last year and another the year before that.

Sheriff Grady Judd said all of them are children with special needs who have difficulty communicating. Three of them were 4-years-old, while the fourth victim was nine.

"(Stanley's) statement was: I could have been her voice," said Judd. "And he wasn't."

Ojeda faces 10 counts of capital sexual battery and is in jail without bond. Stanley faces two counts of failure to report child abuse.

According to the Polk County School Board, Ojeda drove a school bus for three different schools: Bus number 0603 for Horizons Elementary, Boone Middle, and Ridge Community High. He has been employed as a Polk County bus driver since April 2007.

The sheriff expects the number of victims to climb.

"He didn't decide at 72-years of age to start now. We're confident there must be other victims," said Sheriff Judd.

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