Fired school bus driver accused of ‘grooming’ girls
A 59-year-old school bus driver who was fired for engaging in a relationship with a 15-year-old girl on his bus route had been “grooming” other teens as well, according to the testimony of a social worker.
Merv Hanson was in Kamloops provincial court on Monday, July 16, seeking to remove a ministry-imposed order barring him from seeing the 15-year-old, whose name KTW has chosen not to publish.
A one-time Kamloops city council candidate, Hanson was fired in March after the Kamloops-Thompson school district conducted an investigation into his relationship with the teen.
Court has previously heard Hanson met the girl on his bus route.
He told investigators he began offering her music lessons at his house.
The girl’s parents called police, who in turn contacted the Ministry of Children and Family Development, after her relationship with Hanson began to create problems in the family home.
Police investigated, court heard, but could find no evidence of any sexual relationship.
An officer told Hanson to stay away from the girl, but he kept in contact with her.
In May, she moved into his house for a matter of days, prior to the no-contact order being put in place.
In court, social worker Michelle Pearce said Hanson exhibited similar “grooming behaviour” with other students on his route.
“He tells them that they’re special,” she said.
“With [the 15-year-old girl], it’s her music — he tells her she can be the next Avril Lavigne.”
Pearce brought up another incident involving a teen girl who has since moved out of province.
She said Hanson carried on an involved online relationship with the girl.
Pearce read from one message, sent by Hanson to the girl: “So, why were you so quiet and not there for me when I said have a good long weekend, and sat in the middle of the bus? . . . Know this — do not play with what I can and wish to give to you.”
Court heard police in another province are now investigating Hanson for harassment relating to his involvement with that teen.
Pearce said Hanson’s actions as a bus driver were out of line.
“He was in a position of authority and trust,” she said.
“He abused that position, I believe, to try to form relationships with [students].”
Pearce went on to testify about Hanson’s past, which includes allegations of sexual and physical abuse from his stepdaughter. He was never charged.
The 15-year-old girl’s father also took the stand, describing a fairly normal family life prior to the commencement of Hanson’s music lessons.
“We had no problems with [her],” he said.
“The problems seem to have started when there were the music lessons with Merv.”
The distraught dad said his daughter and Hanson bought each other “matching necklaces” — and he believed Hanson had plied her with alcohol on at least one occasion.
Court heard the girl’s parents waited to contact police because they had no evidence of any wrongdoing, other than thinking the situation was “odd.”
The girl’s father said he later found a cellphone bill showing multiple, lengthy phone conversations between his daughter and Hanson, conducted in the middle of the night.
“As a parent, any man contacting her at two in the morning — 59, 39, bus driver, not a bus driver — none of those are acceptable in our society,” the father said.
“He’s a bus driver. You think everything’s OK. You think these guys go through some kind of checks. It was inconceivable.”
Entered as evidence was an apparently threatening text message from Hanson to the girl’s parents, sent in May.
“I’m going to fight you with all I know and the truth,” it read.
“I hope you have deep pockets. . . . I’ve been in court with the ministry before and beat them with their B.S. Ask them.”
The ministry wrapped up its case on Monday afternoon, opening the door for Hanson to call his own evidence.
Court heard from Eric Kaukonen, Hanson's step-son, and Allycia Sostorics, Kaukonen's girlfriend.
Both described Hanson's home as a welcoming, comfortable place, but also took issue with authorities.
Sostorics said she does not trust ministry social workers. Kaukonen said he's had bad experiences in the past with the RCMP.
The hearing will resume at a later date. Still to testify are the 15-year-old girl's brother and the girl herself.
Hanson is also slated to wrap up his testimony, which began on Monday.
The date for continuation has not yet been set.
Hanson is not charged with any criminal offences.