ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — A bus driver said a police officer got onto her school bus Friday morning and threatened her for requiring children to wear masks while on their way to class. The police officer's department shared a different picture of the incident.
It happened on board a Rockwood School District bus with children from LaSalle Springs Middle School in Wildwood. District officials confirmed with 5 On Your Side they are investigating what happened.
We talked with the driver who was shaken up by what she said happened while she was on the job.
She said a man in police uniform with a gun in his holster walked onto the bus and threatened to report her to Attorney General Eric Schmitt for asking children to wear masks.
The bus driver told 5 On Your Side’s Casey Nolen she believes the incident on her bus was caught on camera.
Bob Shockey, chief of the Arnold Police Department, said the officer is with his department. The Arnold Police Department does not serve that area of the Rockwood School District in Wildwood.
Shockey said the officer is a parent of one of the students who was on the bus. He said the officer did not initially step onto the bus, but asked the bus driver for a phone number to lodge a complaint. The officer stepped through the door of the bus when the driver had the phone number for him.
Eureka police were called to the school district headquarters after the incident.
School buses fall under the federal transportation rule, which still mandates masks for drivers and children, meaning they don’t fall under state or local policies and have nothing to do with the recent ruling by a judge in Missouri and St. Louis County lifting its mask mandate.
LaSalle Springs Middle School sent a note to parents Friday. It reads:
We wanted to make you aware of a situation that arose on your child’s bus this morning on the way to school. At one of the scheduled stops, an individual, who identified himself as a police officer, became verbally aggressive towards the driver about requiring masks on the school bus, asserting that it was illegal. The individual boarded the bus at one point during the conversation. The driver did what she should have done, which was to contact dispatch who instructed the driver to have the individual contact our transportation department with any concerns.
We have initiated an internal investigation and reported the incident to the Eureka Police Department. Please know we take matters of student and staff safety very seriously and this type of behavior directed towards staff or students will simply not be tolerated.
Also, please note that masking on public transportation (which includes school buses) is a federal requirement that we are required to follow.
We encourage you to talk openly with your student about the incident and please feel free to contact us if you have any questions. Please know that the safety of all students is always our primary concern and we will work together to ensure your child (or children) are safely transported to and from school.
Last month, a Cole County judge ruled local health orders in Missouri are illegal and should be lifted because they violate the state Constitution’s separation of powers clause.
This week, Schmitt sent letters to public school districts and health departments demanding they stop enforcing public health orders, like mask mandates and quarantines. The state attorney general took his actions a step further, asking families to report schools that are violating the ruling – and submit photographic evidence to prove it.
Schmitt and some local school districts – including Rockwood – have been at odds over health orders since he published his letter.
Interim Rockwood Superintendent Tim Ricker disagreed in a letter sent to parents Tuesday.
“Our attorneys continue to advise us that we have legal authority to establish rules and regulations regarding the safety of our students and staff," the letter said.
Rockwood school officials had told parents before Schmitt’s demand this week that they were working on modifying the mask policy. They plan to release the updated guidance next week, which will go into effect next semester.