Cabarrus County student accused of punching bus driver, 84, in the face

A student in Concord is accused of punching an 84-year-old bus driver in the face.

Police said the assault happened outside of West Cabarrus High School on Feb. 27. Channel 9′s Hannah Goetz learned the driver was waiting to pick up students when he was attacked.

One Cabarrus County parent talked to Goetz about how she adores her kids’ bus driver, Mr. Kirk, and hopes something is done. During School Bus Driver Appreciation Week, which North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared last month, she got him a gift and dedicated a Facebook post to him that was shared by the Cabarrus County Schools Transportation page.

“He’s just fantastic,” Kirstin Rowland said. “I could not ask for a better person to take my kids to school.”

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That is why news of a driver being assaulted was so hard for her to hear.

“My heart actually did break because there are so many good people wanting to be a part of children’s lives,” she said.

According to a Concord Police Department incident report, the 84-year-old bus driver was punched in the face by a juvenile at West Cabarrus High School.

Cabarrus County Schools sent the following statement to Channel 9 about the incident:

“Cabarrus County Schools is aware of an incident on a parked bus at West Cabarrus High School last week that involved the assistance of law enforcement. This is an on-going matter, and we are cooperating with local law enforcement to provide any information that we have.

“Student and staff safety is a top priority for Cabarrus County Schools. We are taking appropriate internal actions to provide for a safe environment on our buses. These actions include utilizing adult bus monitors as necessary, buses equipped with cameras, and bus driver professional development. As you are aware, we cannot comment further on personnel issues or incidents involving student discipline.”

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No one from the school district would speak to Goetz on camera, but the district confirmed in its statement that it’s cooperating with law enforcement.

According to Concord police, the suspect in the report was referred to juvenile services.

Back at the Rowland home, Kirstin, a working mom, hopes this incident doesn’t stop bus drivers from doing the crucial job many people rely on.

“I really hope one incident doesn’t deter them from applying because, you never know -- as corny as it sounds -- a bus driver could potentially help them through their hardest days,” Rowland said. “And I really do believe, because of my bus driver, my kids have a better experience at school.”

We still don’t know what led up to the driver being punched, and Cabarrus County Schools said they can’t release any more information.

Goetz learned the district has a job fair in April and there are currently 39 openings for school bus drivers. Parents like Rowland wonder if an incident like this will impact that number.

(WATCH BELOW: Parents alarmed after students dropped off at wrong stop amid bus driver shortage)