Tigard police arrest school bus driver accused of sexually abusi - KPTV - FOX 12

Tigard police arrest school bus driver accused of sexually abusing special needs student

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Mario Mendez Ruiz, jail booking photo Mario Mendez Ruiz, jail booking photo

Police arrested a bus driver with the Tigard-Tualatin School District who is accused of sexually abusing a student on the bus after dropping off all the other children.

Mario Mendez Ruiz, 60, of Hillsboro, was booked into the Washington County Jail on Wednesday on charges of second-degree kidnapping, third-degree sexual abuse and first-degree criminal mistreatment.

Police said Ruiz is a school bus driver for special needs children.

A girl reported to school administrators that she had been sexually abused by Ruiz beginning in late March.

Administrators immediately contacted Tigard police. Police said on two occasions Ruiz deviated his route and drove the bus to a neighborhood where he parked, got up and sat next to the student and sexually abused her.

Investigators said Ruiz gave the girl money and instructions not to tell anyone of their "friendship."

Detectives contacted other students who were also on the bus driven by Ruiz, but police said they are not aware of any additional victims.  

Ruiz was placed on paid administrative leave from his job when the district learned of the allegations. The Tigard-Tualatin School District released a statement Thursday saying Ruiz has been employed by the district for two years and passed a background check and fingerprint test prior to being hired.

"This is disturbing to us on many levels. We are extremely concerned for the student and very troubled that the person accused of harming her was an employee," according to the district's statement.

The girl was set up with a school counselor as soon as she reported the alleged abuse and her family was provided access to an outside counselor, as well. 

The Tigard Police Department released a statement encouraging parents to maintain an open dialogue with their children and encourage them to freely express their feelings or worries without reprisal. For more information on child abuse prevention, go to nsvrc.org.

“I think that anytime a vulnerable person is taken advantage of by someone else it’s very disturbing,” said Bob Joondeph, the Executive Director of Disability Rights Oregon.

While Joondeph is not connected with this case he says instances of abuse among people with disabilities occur at an alarming rate, but they’re hard to track because they’re under-reported.

He said studies show as many as 83 percent of women and 32 percent of men with developmental disabilities experience some level of sexual assault.

After looking into a case of abuse reported by a non-verbal student against a student aide a few years back, Joondeph said he learned about loopholes in the system between Child Protective Services, the state’s Teacher Standards and Practices Commission and local law enforcement. He said in some cases agencies thought the abuse was being investigated when, in fact, it wasn’t.

Now, Disability Rights Oregon is working with lawmakers on Senate Bill 268, which would require that the Department of Human Services make their records available to Disability Rights Oregon involving cases of alleged abuse in a school setting so that advocates can ensure investigations aren’t overlooked.

While the student involved in this case was able to speak up for herself, Joondeph knows that’s not always the case.

“There are many people with certain types of disabilities who don’t have that ability,” he added.

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