Montgomery Co. schools sued by family of girl sexually assaulted on school bus

The family of a special-needs student is suing Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland for negligence, alleging the county should have provided better oversight of a bus driver who sexually assaulted their daughter.

The complaint says Etienne Kabongo, 65, was caught on camera assaulting the girl, known in the filing as Jane Doe, three times in 2018, but that the footage was never reviewed. They note the cameras on board the bus also caught Kabongo assaulting other students.

Kabongo was arrested in 2018, and eventually pleaded guilty to the charges. He has since claimed he was not criminally responsible. And Bethesda Beat, which first reported news of the lawsuit, said he’ll go to trial later this summer.

The plaintiffs claim Kabongo was seen on video molesting the girl three times between May 29, 2018, and July 31, 2018, when the other attendant on board the bus had gotten off the bus to help a student exit. The lawsuit says the attendant’s leaving the immediate area of the bus is a “clear breach and violation of MCPS policy.”

This civil lawsuit, filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court, quotes school leaders touting the camera program the county entered into, specifically quoting arguments that the program wasn’t just about generating revenue, but was also about keeping students, drivers and staff safe.

The buses had cameras on the outside meant to capture drivers who didn’t stop when the bus had flashing red lights. The program cost the county nothing to implement, because a portion of each ticket was sent back to the company that installed the cameras. But there were also cameras inside the bus, capturing footage that is archived, but which can also be accessed in real time.

The plaintiffs are asking for unspecified damages of over $100,000.

Both a school district spokesperson and a lawyer for the plaintiffs declined to comment on the case, which is on track to go to trial in March.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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