Montgomery County police

School Bus Driver Accused of Sexually Assaulting 12-Year-Old Girl With Special Needs

A Montgomery County Public Schools school bus driver is accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl aboard a bus for students who receive special education services.

Montgomery County Police say 62-year-old Etienne K. Kabongo was driving a school bus on the afternoon of July 31 when he stopped in the area of Yates Road in Silver Spring to drop off a student. When the school bus attendant got off the bus to help with that student, Kabongo remained on the bus with another student, a 12-year-old girl, whom he then sexually assaulted, police said.

The girl was on her way home from a summer program for people with special needs, according to a court document.

Video of the assault was captured on a school bus camera, police said.

“It’s every parent's worse nightmare to have their child accosted at school, on a school bus or on the way to and from child care,” said Ramon Korionoff of the Mont County State's Attorney's Office.

Kabongo, of Gaithersburg, was arrested Sunday. He is charged with second-degree rape, third-degree sexual offense and the sexual abuse of a minor.

When Kabongo learned of the allegations, he bought a plane ticket from Newark, New Jersey, to Ethiopia, prosecutors said. For that, they consider him a flight risk, and the judge ruled Monday to hold him without bond.

Kabongo, known as "Mr. Steve" to some students, has worked as a bus driver since 2006, mostly driving students receiving special needs education, police said. He has worked at multiple schools across the county.

Detectives are concerned that there may be other victims. Anyone worried that a child may have been a victim is asked to call detectives at 240-773-5400.

The Montgomery County Council released a statement Monday reading in part, "Montgomery County condemns all forms of sexual abuse and harassment. The safety and security of students in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is our top and most important priority. Our hearts ache for the student, who endured this horrific act of sexual violence, and her family."

The council said its education committee met with MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith and other MCPS leadership in April for a briefing on the school system's child abuse and neglect policies.

"While Montgomery County's Board of Education is ultimately responsible for establishing and implementing these policies, we will continue to work together to provide the funding needed for training to prevent and spot sexual abuse and harassment and for the security equipment and personnel necessary to protect our students, especially those who cannot speak for themselves," the council's statement continued.

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

Smith said Kabongo was immediately placed on leave when the allegations surfaced.

"Mr. Kabongo will not be returning to our buses or schools," Smith said in the letter.

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