WAUKESHA COUNTY -- A school bus driver is criminally charged -- accused of driving students while on drugs and carrying a firearm. On Tuesday, January 3rd, officials with the Elmbrook School District met with officials with First Student bus company.
Brookfield police stopped the 43-year-old female driver just after she dropped off the students at school on Friday morning, December 23rd (the last day of class before the break for the holidays) after reports she was driving erratically, and complaints from parents and school staff members.
Police said she was impaired and had a concealed handgun.
Penny Wolf of Milwaukee now faces the following charges:
- OWI -- third offense, with passenger under 16 years old
- Possession of amphetamine, LSD, psilocin
- Possession of a firearm on the grounds of a school
On Tuesday, the first day back to school after the holidays, one parent said the assistant principal of Swanson Elementary School was on board the bus to make sure everything ran smoothly.
Also on Tuesday, the superintendent of the Elmbrook School District and president of the Board of Education met with First Student officials to follow up after the incident on December 23rd.
In a statement on the school district's website, officials said they asked First Student to:
- Re-certify background checks on all active drivers
- Verify the commercial drivers license status of all drivers
- Describe the “fit for duty” protocols used by First Student staff each morning before a driver is sent on a route
School district officials said: "We anticipate providing families and staff with regular transportation updates in the coming weeks as information becomes available. This issue has brought to light an array of concerns with First Student that we will work to address immediately, while evaluating the District’s long-term relationship with our transportation provider."
A First Student spokesman told FOX6 News that Wolf had been a driver for a year-and-a-half, and passed a background check.
However, following the allegations against her, Wolf would be terminated.
"We have a zero tolerance policy for employees whose actions may harm or put others at risk. Behavior such as this is unacceptable," Chris Kemper, First Student spokesman said.
Wolf made her initial appearance in court in this case on December 27th. A hearing was scheduled for January 17th.
Cash bond was set at $2,000, and a signature bond was set at $8,000.
She's been ordered to have no contact with Swanson Elementary School -- and no contact with students or staff members from the school. She must also maintain absolute sobriety.
According to a criminal complaint, when police went to the First Student bus company to speak with Wolf on Friday, she said "the roads were slippery and she slid several times and did bump into the curb once, but didn't feel her driving was erratic or reckless." She said she slid through a stop sign at one point because of ice, and said the roads were not taken care of. She also said "she was late for work and running behind," and she had missed her first route that day.
The complaint indicates Wolf stumbled into a doorway when she walked into an office, and her pupil size did not seem normal.
Field sobriety tests were performed poorly, the complaint says.
Prosecutors say Wolf had Adderall in a pill bottle that she said belonged to her sister. She said she never took any, and "was going to return them" to her sister. She said her sister told her "they would help with her sleepiness."
She said she did not take anything on Friday except for a supplement that apparently helps with her anxiety.
A Smith & Wesson 380 with six bullets in it, along with a fully loaded magazine was found in her jacket, according to the complaint. Wolf said she had a concealed carry permit but it was determined to be expired.
A drug recognition expert evaluated Wolf and found her to be under the influence of a stimulant -- and unable to operate a motor vehicle safely.
However, the complaint states Wolf told police she didn't feel impaired by anything, and didn't believe her driving was erratic.
When questioned about the gun found in her possession, Wolf said "it's for protection, because she doesn't live in a good neighborhood," and she "forgot she had it in her pocket." She said she normally leaves it in the center console in her truck.
The complaint makes reference to Wolf's prior OWI convictions -- in November of 1989 and January of 2004.
Officials with the Elmbrook School District sent the below letter to families of students on December 23rd:
Dear Elmbrook Families,
This morning (12/23), in response to parent calls of concern and staff actions at Swanson elementary, a school bus driver from First Student was arrested and referred to the Waukesha District Attorney for several offenses including impaired driving and carrying a concealed weapon. As your Superintendent, I am thankful that all students arrived safely to school, but angered at the events that put our students in danger. The safety of our students, including the transportation of them to and from school, is paramount to providing the quality education our community expects.
The school district and our families need to have confidence in First Student’s ability to hire quality drivers and safely transport our students every day. Right now, our confidence is shaken as we seek to understand the details of these charges and how this could have happened on one of our school bus routes.
We fully expect this incident to have a long-term impact on our relationship with First Student.
As we assess First Student’s ability to provide transportation for the District, we are committed to transparent communication about the District’s next steps and First Student’s response to this violation of our trust.
This is not the news or message we wanted to send as we enter winter break, and we are sorry that this happened to our students and families. It is our responsibility to demand the highest level of professional conduct from our transportation provider, and we will do what is necessary in the coming weeks to ensure the safety of your children.