A Montgomery County Public Schools bus driver has been arrested and charged with rape, and other sexual abuse charges, after he was caught on tape assaulting a 12-year-old special needs girl last Tuesday.
Police believe that there may be more victims. What makes this case scary is that the driver has primarily driven for students receiving Special Education services. He’s driven at multiple schools in the district including Clarksburg High School and Hallie Wells Middle School, according to MCPS.
Montgomery County Police Special Victims Investigations Detectives arrested bus operator Etienne K. Kabongo, 62, who was known to the students as “Mr. Steve,” of the 7800 block of Mineral Springs Drive in Gaithersburg on August 5. He was charged with second-degree rape, third-degree sexual offense and the sexual abuse of a minor. He is currently being held without bond and is expected to have a bond review today at 1:00 pm.
According to police, on Tuesday, July 31 at approximately 12:30 pm, an MCPS school bus transporting students receiving special education services was stopped in the area of Yates Road in Silver Spring. During the time that the school bus attendant left the bus to assist in the drop off of another student, the driver, Etienne K. Kabongo, who remained on the bus, sexually assaulted the 12-year-old female victim. The investigation resulted in charges for inappropriate sexual contact. The school bus camera captured video of the assault.
Special Victims Investigations Detectives are concerned that there are other victims. Etienne Kabongo is known as “Mr. Steve” to some students. Anyone who is concerned that a child has been victimized by Kabongo is asked to call detectives at 240-773-5400.
“Words cannot convey my anger, disgust, and disappointment in the alleged behavior of Mr. Kabongo,” wrote Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jack Smith, in a letter to parents. “Abusing a position of trust and authority to take advantage of the most vulnerable among us is despicable. This behavior is a violation of our values and policies, as well as the law, and it will not be tolerated.”
Smith said that MCPS staff immediately contacted MCPD when we were made aware of these allegations. “We are fully cooperating with MCPD, who is leading this investigation. Pursuant to our memorandum of understanding with law enforcement and MCPS policies and regulations, MCPS has not shared any details broadly with the community until now to avoid prejudicing the police investigation and interfering with law enforcement’s ability to prosecute its case.”
According to Smith, Kabongo was immediately placed on leave when MCPS was made aware of the allegations. “Mr. Kabongo will not be returning to our buses or schools,” wrote Smith.
Smith said the Kabongo has worked for MCPS since 2006 as a bus operator. During his time with MCPS, he has driven routes for Clarksburg High School during the 2014-2016, 2016-2017, and 2017-2018 school year. Also this last school year, he drove a route servicing Hallie Wells Middle School in Clarksburg, among four other schools. The full list can view at the MCPS website.
The Montgomery County Council released a statement regarding Kabongo’s arrest, “Montgomery County condemns all forms of sexual abuse and harassment. The safety and security of students in Montgomery County Public Schools is our top and most important priority. Our hearts ache for the student, who endured this horrific act of sexual violence, and her family.”
Dr. Smith wrote, “Our thoughts are with the students and families impacted by this. MCPS has coordinated with Tree House Child Advocacy Center to ensure counseling support and resources are available. Tree House staff can be reached by phone at 240-777-4699.”
“MCPS is committed to the safety of all students on our buses and in our schools. Many buses in our fleet are equipped with internal video cameras, including the bus related to this arrest,” wrote Smith. “We have already taken steps to accelerate our process for acquiring cameras for all buses. Additionally, in 2015, MCPS enhanced its policies and protocols for preventing, recognizing and reporting child abuse in our community.”
Photo courtesy MCPD.