The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

MCPS bus driver arrested convicted of sexual assault against student

MCPS+is+attempting+to+improve+their+bus+surveillance.+Parents+demand+an+immediate+response+after+the+case+was+publicized
Photo courtesy of Moody Air Force Base
MCPS is attempting to improve their bus surveillance. Parents demand an immediate response after the case was publicized

Montgomery County bus driver Etienne Kabongo was charged with second-degree rape and third-degree sexual offense on a minor in the special education program. The 12-year-old girl was assaulted at 12:20 p.m. on July 31, on her way to Francis S. Key Middle School, while the bus attendant aid was distracted helping another student outside. Kabongo has now been convicted of a total of 14 counts of sexual assault, according to online court records.

Kabongo, locally known as Mr. Steve, was immediately placed on unpaid leave as MCPS officers discovered video evidence from the bus camera after receiving a complaint from the girl’s parents. The accused rapist was arrested and held without bail on August 5 in a court review hearing in Rockville district court.

Superintendent Jack Smith expressed his thoughts about the situation in a letter addressed to parents on August 6.

“Words cannot convey my anger, disgust and disappointment in the alleged behavior of Mr. Kabongo,” Smith said. “Abusing a position of trust and authority to take advantage of the most vulnerable among us is despicable.”

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The incident occurred on a typical school afternoon when Kabongo pulled over to pick up another student. The only other bus aid stepped outside for a few seconds to help the student get into the bus. While seemingly out of sight, Kabongo moved toward the empty seat next to the girl and groped her. He allegedly committed the assault with his hands, according to charging documents.

The Maryland second-degree rape law states that it is illegal for a person to engage in intercourse or a sexual act with someone who is “substantially cognitively impaired” and when the perpetrator understands that the victim is “cognitively impaired.” Although Kabongo technically molested the girl rather than raped her, he is legally considered a rapist for willingly assaulting a defenseless, “impaired” individual.

Video footage of the attack gave detectives a clear view of the event and the victim’s reaction.

“Victim A began to scream, and appears to cry while she moved backwards away from Etienne K. Kabongo,” detectives wrote in court papers, according to the Washington Post.

Although nearly all special education service vehicles have cameras, not all MCPS buses have video surveillance. Of the county’s 1,350 buses, only 1,056 have cameras, meaning that the safety of many students can be put at risk every morning and afternoon.

“All buses should be required to have a camera or else something terrible like this could go unnoticed. It’s already unforgivable what this guy did to that student, but it makes it a hundred times worse that she’s in the special education program,” senior Luke Kaleeba said. “How can you do something so perverted?”

MCPS began holding meetings with concerned parents on August 22 to adjust safety measures. District leaders invited parents of children with special needs to meet and discuss background checks, hiring methods, and plan to install cameras on every bus in the county to minimize the possibility that such an incidence will reoccur.

“Sexual harassment has been a long and ongoing issue. It’s shocking and hurtful that someone would do that to a helpless person. I’m glad that Walter Johnson hasn’t had any issues like this,” freshman Kyra Lee said.

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About the Contributor
John Leonardo, Staff Writer
John Leonardo is currently a senior in his first year with the Pitch.  After taking Journalism during his Junior year, he is prepared and excited to write for the school newspaper. Besides working as a staff writer, John enjoys spending quality time with his friends playing pickup basketball or occasionally getting a win in Fortnite.
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