NY school bus driver accused of drunken driving with kids on board

GATES, N.Y. — A school bus driver in western New York is accused of being intoxicated while driving the vehicle with students on board, school officials said.

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Lashonda Griffin, 29, of Gates, was arrested Friday, according to Gates Police Chief Jim VanBrederode. Griffin was charged with six counts of endangering the welfare of a child, driving while intoxicated, and multiple counts in violation of Leandra’s Law for driving under the influence of alcohol with children under the age of 16 in the vehicle, the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester reported.

First-time offenders of Leandra’s Law, also known as the Child Passenger Protection Act, can be charged with a class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison, the newspaper reported.

Griffin drives for the Gates Chili Central School District. According to district officials, Gates police officers were contacted after reports of an unauthorized bus stop at a McDonald’s restaurant, WHAM reported. Griffin allegedly took two children from the bus into the restaurant, the television station reported.

Griffin completed her first run Friday morning with six children on the bus and then returned to the district bus garage parking lot, VanBrederode told the Democrat and Chronicle. She allegedly passed out in the bus and missed her second run, the newspaper reported.

After parents called the district office, officials investigated and found Griffin asleep in her bus.

Lt. Robert Long of the Gates Police Department said he found Griffin passed out behind the wheel, WROC reported. There were no children on the bus.

“Behind the wheel in general -- when you’re drinking, that vehicle that you’re behind becomes a missile, a potential death trap,” Long told the television station. “Many things can happen; you can kill somebody else, kill yourself, kill innocent bystanders. In this case, operating a school bus with children onboard brings it to a whole new level.”

Police confirmed that Griffin had a blood-alcohol-content level above the state’s legal limit of 0.08, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.

Griffin was issued an appearance ticket and released, Long said.

“While the district cannot comment directly on personnel matters, we can say that this is an egregious violation of our policies and practices and will never be tolerated,” Iva Petrosino, the district’s director of public relations, told the Democrat and Chronicle.

Petrosino said the driver was a probationary employee with minimal due process rights and the district will be pursuing “swift and appropriate action to ensure the safety of all students.”

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