Driver Suspended After Student Brings ‘Look-a-Like' Grenade on Suburban School Bus

A suburban school bus driver is on unpaid leave after a first-grader brought what appeared to be a grenade on the vehicle, according to the Illinois Education Association.

In two different letters to parents, Antioch School District 34 officials acknowledged the incident with what they called a “look-a-like grenade” and apologized for not communicating more with the parents. Antioch police verified the grenade was actually a harmless paperweight, school officials said in the letter.

“In the spirit of full transparency, our response protocol to this type of situation was at best ‘weak’ and at worst ‘random,” Supt. Jay Marino said in one of the letters. “Unfortunately, this situation served as a learning experience at your (parents’) expense. For that, I apologize.”

The IEA, an organization that advocates for teachers unions, said driver Kevin Garfinkle was told by other students on Jan. 11 that a child had a grenade in his backpack on the morning commute to school.

“The bus driver confiscated the grenade, very worried about what to do with it and children,” the IEA said in a timeline of events it released on behalf of Garfinkle. “When he arrived at the school, he gave the grenade to another employee.”

Garfinkle told NBC 5 the grenade looked and felt real, not like a toy or paperweight.

The student was not on Garfinkle’s bus on the way home, the IEA said, and no further information was conveyed to the bus driver about the incident that day.

As days went on, the student who brought the grenade on the vehicle continued to take the bus to school on Garfinkle’s route with no update from school officials, the IEA said. Parents began asking Garfinkle about the incident and wanted to know what was going to be done, the IEA said.

Garfinkle started telling parents he didn’t know what was going on and suggested they ask the principal, district office or board of education for more information, the organization said.

He also asked his supervisor for a route change because of the grenade incident and how the district had handled it, the IEA said in its timeline of events.

On Jan. 18 Garfinkle, according to the IEA, was called into the supervisor’s office and given a letter informing him of his suspension for insubordination.

Marino said he could not discuss the suspension pending an ongoing investigation. 

Supporters of Garfinkle were planning to attend a school board meeting Monday night in Antioch to demand an explanation for his suspension.

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