Former VB bus driver set for trial in child porn case, placed on statewide child abuse registry

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A former Virginia Beach school bus driver will go to trial later this year.

Michael Gunther Jr. is now charged with nearly a dozen possession of child pornography charges.

Last week, Gunther appeared in court for a brief hearing.

This comes while parents still want answers from Virginia Beach City Public School leaders.

Virginia Beach school bus driver faces felony child porn, other charges

On Sept. 5, 2023, a Virginia Beach parent contacted school administrators after their child passed out with signs of drug use. The parent says text messages show the items came from the student’s bus driver, who at the time was Gunther. One month later, Gunther was arrested and charged with several crimes including child pornography.

Diane Toscano, with Toscano Law Group, is now representing one of the families involved.

Toscano explains during the month-long police investigation, Gunther was allowed to continue working the bus route and contact the kids.

“One of the concerns is once the school was put on notice that there is a potential teacher, administrator or somebody associated with a school that’s doing something that could harm a student, then they need to do something then and not wait it out.” said Toscano. “They’re disappointed. They feel if they had known that this person was under investigation, then their student would’ve rode the bus or he shouldn’t have been driving the bus. There are a lot of things that could have been done.”

Toscano provided 10 On Your Side with a letter from the Department of Human Services Child Protective Services stating Gunther was placed on the Virginia Child Abuse and Neglect central registry.

“CPS has done their own investigation and came back with a level two finding regarding one of the families’ cases. At this time, we feel that the lack of action on behalf of the Virginia Beach Public Schools led to the student, my client being harmed,” said Toscano. “There’s been physical and emotional harm.”

VB school bus driver charged with child porn denied bond

Gunther is now charged with 10 counts of felony possession of child pornography.

A trial for the sex crimes case is scheduled for Sept. 4, 2024.

“Whatever happens with the criminal case is on its own path than what we’re pursuing. Right now, we’ve been in conversations with the Virginia Beach Public Schools. If we can’t resolve this in advance of a lawsuit, then we will file suit,” said Toscano.

WAVY asked VBCPS why was Gunther allowed to continue working as bus driver on the routes in question and have contact with the children pending the police investigation?

The response, “Please know that VBCPS took action as soon as the division was notified by VBPD. VBCPS stands by its previous statement from October 2023.”

“VBCPS conducted an immediate internal investigation when notified by VBPD of the employee’s misconduct and arrest. The internal investigation revealed a school administrator met on Sept. 5 with a parent who brought forward concerning text messages related to nicotine products. The school administrator acted swiftly to notify a School Resource Officer (SRO) of the parent’s suspicions. The SRO notified the appropriate VBPD investigative personnel to initiate a criminal investigation in an attempt to prove or disprove the allegations. By Oct. 5, 2023, VBPD investigators had developed enough probable cause to arrest Michael Gunther on one charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  After Mr. Gunther’s arrest, additional evidence was obtained which led to Gunther being charged with five counts of Possession of Obscene Material of a Minor,  offenses not part of the original allegation and investigation.“

-VBCPS Statement sent to 10 On Your Side on October 12, 2023

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