A Charleston man was stunned to learn four months ago that his 7-year-old daughter allegedly had been groped by her school bus driver. But now he’s frustrated for a different reason.
The father said he’s been led around in circles by the Charleston County School District and Durham School Services after pushing officials to notify parents about the incident in an effort to identify other potential victims.
The father said neither the district nor the bus company took steps to contact parents about the incident, despite the fact that the same driver also had been accused of molesting a second student.
“It became obvious they weren’t going to do anything about it,” he said.
The Post and Courier is not naming the father to protect his daughter’s identity, as the newspaper does not name alleged sexual assault victims.
After the newspaper began asking questions about the case last week, the school district said it is now reaching out to parents whose children rode that driver’s bus this year.
Durham, meanwhile, refused repeated requests to answer specific questions about the episode, saying only that it is investigating the matter. The district is one of three in South Carolina that hired Durham to employ bus drivers and manage bus routes.
The driver in question, 47-year-old Macneil Deas of S.C. Highway 174 in Adams Run, was fond of the young girls who rode his route, bringing them candy and asking for hugs daily, Charleston police reports show.
But on some occasions, those hugs reportedly turned sinister as Deas wrapped his arms around the children in his care and squeezed them on the buttocks, police said.
Deas is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and one count of assault and battery in the two separate cases, State Law Enforcement Division records show.
Deas drove for Durham during the current school year until he was placed on administrative leave in December, when he was arrested by Charleston police.
His arrest stemmed from accusations that he had groped a 12-year-old West Ashley girl on two occasions. Deas is accused of brushing his hand across the girl’s chest in 2011 and squeezing her buttocks as she was getting off the bus in early October 2012, police said.
The Charleston man said he questioned his 7-year-old daughter after learning about the accusations through a neighbor, who had heard of the incident through news reports.
Normally a vibrant and talkative child, the man said his daughter grew quiet when questioned about Deas.
“We could tell by her reaction that something was wrong,” the man said. “She didn’t want to talk about it. My wife talked to her and got her to role-play.”
The girl told her parents that Deas had rubbed his hand on her buttocks several times, he said.
The girl’s parents went to police in December. Deas was charged with assault and battery on Jan. 18 in connection with the girl’s story.
The father said he then turned to the school district and Durham School Services, hoping that they could alert other parents to a potential problem. He worried that children might not come forward on their own, and he wondered how many other kids had encountered problems on Deas’ bus.
“We thought for sure that our daughter would have told us if something like this happened, but she didn’t,” the man said.
Durham declined to answer questions about the action it took in the wake of the accusations against Deas. But on Monday, five days after it was initially contacted, the company released the following statement:
“We are looking into the matter questioned. The safety and security of the students we transport is our priority. As individual incidents occur we work closely with our customers and local authorities to determine appropriate actions required.”
John Emerson, attorney for the school district, said that when the accusations were initially made, the district had no means of deciphering which students had been on Deas’ route from year to year. The district was hesitant to alarm the parents of all 45,000 of its students, Emerson said.
The district is now developing a system to maintain a record of which students are assigned to which driver, Emerson said.
“It does make logical sense now, but it just wasn’t something that came to us as a need in the past,” Emerson said.
On Friday, however, district officials mailed letters to the parents of each child driven by Deas during the current school year. The letters encouraged parents to seek help from the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children’s Center if any students showed signs of being abused.
The school district did not respond to The Post and Courier’s requests on Friday and Monday for a copy of the letter.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.