The Arizona Department of Public Safety has suspended the driver certificate of a Marana Unified School District bus driver accused of molesting a child, and is investigating the district's failure to report the accusation to the department.

Though the suspension is permanent, the bus driver has the right to appeal.

"When a child is injured on a school bus in any manner, it is required to be reported to us," said John Barber, the department's investigator of school bus-related issues in Southern Arizona. "Failing to do so is a violation of administrative rules."

The school district was earlier admonished by a Pima County Sheriff's Department investigator for not immediately reporting the accusation, and for conducting its own interviews of the victim and child-witnesses, thereby possibly tainting the sheriff's department's investigation.

By not reporting to the Department of Public Safety, the district prevented the department from pulling the man's certificate, Barber said.

"Yesterday this driver could have walked in the door of any school district in the state and become a bus driver," he said. "Today he can't."

The district notified the department about the driver no longer working for the district in November, even though the driver quit in May. The department didn't find out why he no longer drove for the district until learning of the complaint from the Northwest EXPLORER, Barber said.

The bus driver, who began driving for the district in 2000, was accused of repeatedly tickling a 10-year-old Thornydale Elementary School student and also touching her bottom and breast. Though the driver was arrested and charged with sexual abuse of a minor, a class 3 felony, the charges were later dropped.

The Pima County Attorney's Office refused to say why it chose to drop the charges. Because the charges were dropped, the bus driver's name is being withheld.

The child's parents filed a suit in Pima County Superior Court on Dec. 16 claiming the internal investigation by MUSD administrators compromised the sheriff's department's criminal investigation of the driver.

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