Montana schools chief cited in illegal bus overtaking case | Montana News

By AMY BETH HANSON, Associated Press

HELEN, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s top schools administrator has been cited in the case of a van that illegally overtook a school bus while it was stopped to pick up students from a residential development last week.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen was cited Thursday after speaking with an officer, Helena Police Lt. Jayson Zander said.

According to a police report, a school bus driver said a vehicle driven by Arntzen overtook his bus while he was stopped to pick up children just after 7:30 a.m. on May 19 at a Helena housing estate. .

The bus driver recognized Arntzen and recorded the license plate number on the red van, according to the police report.

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Video of the incident “would not show the license plate of the vehicle involved,” Arntzen’s office said in a statement Friday.

“Superintendent Arntzen has no recollection of the alleged incident,” Brian O’Leary, a spokesman for the Office of Public Instruction, said in a statement Thursday. “She recognizes that she drives a red van and lives in the area.”

Montana’s 2021 legislature passed a bill to improve bus safety after a college student in northwest Montana was struck and seriously injured by a driver who overtook a stopped bus in November 2019.

Arntzen testified at a February 2021 legislative committee hearing in support of the bill, which called on schools to use extended stop arms in cases where students would have to cross a lane of traffic and doubled the fine for illegally passing a school bus to a maximum of $1,000.

His office on Friday thanked the bus driver who saw the van pass in front of his bus for his vigilance. The case is now in Helena City Court.

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Martha K. Merrill