Credits: Dave Thomas Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
OTTAWA -- The school bus driver accused of humiliating a young schoolboy has been all but cleared of wrongdoing, his employer said Thursday.
"There was no ill intent," Stock Transportation spokesman Blaine Krage said. "(The driver) was shocked to see where this led and feels terrible about it."
The driver was taken off his route after 4-1/2-year-old Ethan Cates emerged from the bus Tuesday afternoon with a piece of masking tape on his hat that read "Trouble Ethan."
Students on the school bus had laughed at him; Ethan was reduced to tears.
Krage said Stock investigators have spoken to the driver, who has a two-year, blemish-free record with the transportation company.
The driver usually sticks pieces of masking tape on the bus windows with the kids' names written on them so they know where to sit.
"On this particular day, the kids were having a good time and asking for stickers for their hats," Krage said.
"The driver wrote several out and it was all meant to be fun and games -- and that's how the children seemed to react to it on the bus."
Krage confirmed the driver has had no problems with Ethan. Ottawa school bus policy states parents are to be notified through the school if the driver reports problems with a impish kid.
"Ethan is no more trouble than any other child on that bus," Krage said.
The case also highlights the vulnerability of bus drivers -- as soon as Stock bus drivers are accused of wrongdoing, Stock pulls them off their routes.
In some cases, this means they are not paid, although Krage could not confirm if Ethan's bus driver was continuing to earn wages while under investigation.
And though Stock appears confident the driver did nothing wrong, Krage couldn't rule out disciplinary action against him when the investigation wraps up next week.
"You don't want to find yourself in a situation that can be misinterpreted, even when you mean well," Krage said.
He declined to put QMI Agency in contact with the driver, who will spend Thanksgiving waiting to learn his fate.
Julie Cates, Ethan's mother, is satisfied with the apology and is no longer calling for the driver's head.
Stock told Cates that the driver is a "very apologetic" and aware he acted improperly.
"People are human, we all make mistakes," Cates told QMI Agency. "Ethan will recover and people do deserve second chances."