AP NEWS

Teacher Charged After Girl Left On Bus Finishing Probation

March 4, 2019

Michael Peregrim spent 25 years teaching young children before criminal charges ended his career.

As Peregrim completes six months of probation, his attorney last week called the case a “tragedy.”

In April, prosecutors charged Peregrim, then a Head Start teacher, with a felony count of endangering the welfare of children and a misdemeanor count of recklessly endangering another person, after a 3-year-old was left on a bus.

Police found her later that morning, still strapped in her seat, as the bus sat unattended in a grocery store parking lot. The bus driver and bus aide admitted they did not check the vehicle after they unloaded the children at the Head Start classroom in Covington Twp., and police say Peregrim, of Old Forge, failed to count the children when they got to the classroom.

The bus driver, David Durdock, who worked for Red Top/Northeastern Transportation, and Stacey Webber, a bus aide for Head Start, faced the same charges. Durdock, Webber and Peregrim all lost their jobs after the incident.

Peregrim, who received support from countless students and their parents, was prepared to go to trial in December, said his attorney, Corey Kolcharno.

“We had probably 20 to 30 character witnesses ready to testify,” he said. “We felt as if the case should not have been filed against him, from the inception.”

Though Kolcharno said he was confident he would win at trial, Peregrim decided to take the prosecution’s offer of entering the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for first-time offenders. Under ARD, defendants’ records are expunged after completing the program.

“In weighing that back and forth, it was a safe option,” Kolcharno said. “It was a good resolution. At the end of the day, it allows him to move on with his life.”

Through ARD, Peregrim must complete six months of probation and 30 hours of community service. He has not gotten his job back.

“It’s a loss for him, it’s a loss for the community, the school and these kids,” Kolcharno said.

On April 25, Peregrim hurried to get the children inside the building from the buses and out of the rain. He did not immediately count the children or check the attendance sheet handed to him by Webber, according to the affidavit. As a teacher’s aide entered meal data into a computer, she called the student’s mother to ask why the girl was not in school. Staff members then realized the girl was missing and believed she might still be on the bus.

As North Pocono’s school resource officer approached the unattended bus parked in a grocery store parking lot on the Drinker Turnpike, he could hear the girl crying. He found her in the second seat from the front, buckled into her booster seat.

Durdock said he never did a sweep of the bus and never saw or heard the child. Webber said she also never checked to make sure all of the students got off the bus, as her job required her to do, according to the affidavit.

Durdock entered ARD last month, and Webber entered ARD last week.

“She wrote an apology letter to the victim’s family,” said her attorney, Jamie Dench. “She feels really bad about what happened.”

Efforts to reach prosecutors, including Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell and First Assistant District Attorney Judith Price, were unsuccessful.

Contact the writer:

shofius@timesshamrock.com

570-348-9133; @hofiushallTT