Montana schools chief cited in case of illegal bus passing

Police have cited Montana's top schools administrator in a case in which a pickup truck illegally passed a school bus last week while it was stopped to pick up students in a residential subdivision

ByAmy Beth Hanson Associated Press
May 27, 2022, 2:21 PM

HELENA, Mont. -- Montana’s top schools administrator has been cited in the case of a pickup truck that illegally passed a school bus while it was stopped to pick up students in a residential subdivision last week.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen was cited on Thursday after speaking with an officer, said Helena Police Lt. Jayson Zander said.

According to a police report, a school bus driver said a vehicle driven by Arntzen pass his bus while it was stopped to pick up children just after 7:30 a.m. on May 19 in a Helena subdivision.

The bus driver recognized Arntzen and recorded the license plate number on the red pickup truck, the police report said.

A video of the incident reportedly “does not show the license plate of the vehicle involved,” Arntzen's office said in a statement Friday.

“Superintendent Arntzen does not recall the alleged incident,” Brian O’Leary, spokesman for the Office of Public Instruction, said in a statement on Thursday. “She does acknowledge she drives a red pickup and lives in the area.”

Montana’s 2021 Legislature passed a bill to improve bus safety after a student in northwestern Montana was hit and critically injured by a driver who passed a stopped bus in November 2019.

Arntzen testified during a February 2021 legislative committee hearing in support of the bill, which called for schools to use extended stop arms in cases where students would have to cross a lane of traffic and doubled the fine for illegally passing a school bus to a maximum of $1,000.

Her office on Friday thanked the bus driver who saw the pickup truck pass his bus for being vigilant. The case now goes to Helena Municipal Court.

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