Jul 30, 2023
An Upper Darby School District bus driver duct
A bus driver for the Upper Darby School District faces criminal charges for duct-taping a 10-year-old student’s ankles, prosecutors said Tuesday. Juliet Pratt, 55, has been charged with false
A bus driver for the Upper Darby School District faces criminal charges for duct-taping a 10-year-old student’s ankles, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Juliet Pratt, 55, has been charged with false imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a child in connection with events on March 8 as she drove her usual bus route. Other charges, including unlawful restraint, were dismissed by a district judge at Pratt’s preliminary hearing earlier this month, court records show.
Pratt was released after posting 10% of her $25,000 bail.
Investigators were first notified of the alleged abuse by staff at Hillcrest Elementary, where the child is a student, according to the affidavit of probable cause for Pratt’s arrest.
Officers reviewed surveillance footage from Pratt’s bus, which showed her duct-taping the student’s ankles together as he sat buckled into his seat, the affidavit said. Pratt later returned to the student and placed tape on his chest.
Detectives noted in their report that the student was not seen trying to leave his seat or moving erratically before Pratt taped him.
When the bus arrived at the school, Pratt is seen in the video removing the tape with a seat belt cutter and throwing it in the trash, according to the affidavit.
In an interview with police, Pratt admitted to duct-taping the student, and told detectives she had done so before.
Pratt’s lawyer, Arthur Donato, said in an interview Tuesday that she did not intend to hurt the child by duct-taping him. She did so, he said, to “protect this child and the other children around him” because of the way he was kicking his legs.
“In retrospect, there might have been a better way to handle it, but not every time someone makes an error is it a crime,” Donato said. “These charges require her having an intent to hurt the child, and all she was trying to do was keep order on the bus.”
A spokesperson for the Upper Darby School District did not return a request for comment about whether Pratt was still employed as a bus driver.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said Tuesday there was “no excuse” for Pratt’s conduct.
“Using duct tape on a child who was already fully restrained in the vehicle’s harness was not only inexcusable, it was also dangerous,” he said. “Had an accident occurred, this child would have been unable to free himself from the tape.”