School bus driver, a sex offender, molested 7-year-old, suit says. District owes $3.1M

A convicted sex offender who operated a school bus in Missouri pleaded guilty in February of molesting a 7-year-old student several times.

Now, the victim has been awarded millions of dollars by the Crawford County R-1 School District, who hired the 73-year-old bus driver despite his previous convictions, according to the victim’s attorney.

Court records filed in St. Louis County show the bus driver, James Philpot, molested the 7-year-old at least three times in April 2023.

He was accused of putting his hands down the pants of the girl, touching her genitals, KMOV reported, citing a probable cause statement. Video recorded on the bus also shows Philpot kissing the girl.

Philpot pleaded guilty to child molestation and will serve a 15-year prison sentence, court records show.

It wasn’t his first conviction involving sex crimes, according to court filings.

In 1968, Philpot was charged with indecent exposure after peeing on a California beach, according to the Sullivan Independent News. A year later, he was charged with “assault with intent to rape” in California, the publication reported.

Despite this, Philpot was hired by the Crawford County R-1 School District in 2021 until being fired upon his May 2023 arrest, KSDK reported.

An attorney representing the 7-year-old said the girl “suffered physical injuries, emotional distress and damages” from Philpot’s sexual abuse, according to court filings.

Before the issue was set to go to court, the school district agreed to pay the victim $3.1 million, court records show.

Grant Boyd, the victim’s attorney, said in a statement to McClatchy News the family “is incredibly pleased with the result” knowing the emotional toll a court case could have brought the family.

“We appreciate the efforts of the new superintendent and those representing the district for their efforts in helping resolve this matter for this young girl that had to experience these horrific events,” Boyd said. “We hope the message to school districts locally and around the country is that they should not be hiring convicted sex offenders to work with our children and that they should not be gambling with the safety of our children.”

The settlement comes less than a year after Cole Byassee began his role as the superintendent of the Crawford County R-1 School District. Byassee worked with a separate school district before being named superintendent and was not a part of the district when Philpot was hired.

Byassee told KSDK the district was “pleased” to “reach a resolution with the family.”

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