x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

School bus conductor held over 'sex attack'

Officials at the school in Sharjah have confirmed that two arrests were made after a child was molested aboard one of their school buses.

DUBAI // A school bus conductor has been arrested after the parents of a four-year-old girl alleged that the child had been molested.

The incident happened a few days before the start of the Christmas holiday, managers of the school say.

The parents took the child to hospital for tests, then lodged a complaint with police, who arrested the 35-year-old conductor. He remains in custody.

"If the person is a culprit and has done this, let him get the maximum punishment," the principal of the school in Sharjah said yesterday.

"But we are waiting for the police reports to find out what exactly happened."

The head of the organisation that runs the school said he was aware of the allegation and they were extending full support to the police to carry out their investigations.

"One parent registered a complaint with the police about the molestation of a girl by a bus conductor. Police are looking into this matter and we are co-operating fully with them."

He said the conductor had been arrested only on the basis of suspicion, and nothing had been confirmed.

"He has a clean track record," another member of the organisation said. "He has been working there for two years and there have been no issues with him."

The school has more than 9,000 pupils and operates 75 buses staffed by 150 conductors.

The father of a 14-year-old girl at the school said he first heard about the case from attendants at Al Qassimi Hospital. "Now, all the parents are talking about it," he said.

As a parent, he said, he was concerned and had urged the school to put female attendants on their school buses. "It is a must to have female bus attendants if they are transporting girls of a younger age."

Sharjah Police would not confirm or deny that they were investigating a case of sexual assault. Al Qassimi Hospital said they were not aware of the case.

At the beginning of this year a school bus driver and two attendants were accused of sexually assaulting a four-year-old pupil at Modern High School in Nad Al Sheba.

The attack was said to have happened in November 2010, but the girl's parents did not report the incident to police until nearly two months later, after doctors told them the child had been molested.

The men were cleared of all charges after Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance found that the alleged attack could not have happened.

Nevertheless, as a result of the case several schools increased vigilance by staffing buses with female attendants or female teachers.

Several new safety policies were also introduced in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, including background checks with police security clearances for school bus staff. Other planned regulations included a clear delineation of the responsibilities of the school and the bus operator, and a requirement that drivers and attendants have no criminal records.

In Dubai, new RTA regulations in 2009 prompted an overhaul of the school transport system with the introduction of seat belts, a speed limit of 80kph and the removal of folding seats.

frahman@thenational.ae