NEW YORK — A school bus driver faces child endangerment charges for masterminding a bullying system among middle school students that included a pecking order of abuse, authorities said.
Michael Cianci allegedly encouraged students in his “Death Cheese Club” — named for the yellow school bus — to use headlocks on other students and push them around.
“It was ’Lord of the Flies’ with adult supervision,” said William Smith, a spokesman for Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan.
The New York Daily News reported that Cianci, 38, is a “Star Wars” fan and called himself “Emperor.” The paper had its own name for Cianci: “Jabba the Nut” and called his bus “a mini Death Star on wheels.”
Cianci, of Parlin, N.J., was arraigned Thursday on two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and released on $500 bail. Cianci, a certified school bus driver for 15 years with no prior complaints against him, was suspended without pay.
The alleged abuse on the Staten Island route began Nov. 1, until the first complaint came on Jan. 17 when the parents of an 11-year-old boy whose jacket was cut with scissors reported it to school authorities, Smith said. The scissors reportedly were used in place of “Star Wars” lightsabers.
The parents of another 11-year-old boy filed a complaint at around the same time when their son told them of harassment on the bus in the form of headlocks and shoving.
Smith said “there’s no explanation as to why they (students) didn’t come forward” sooner. The students were from Intermediate School 34 in Tottenville.
Smith said there were no direct threats against any of the students beyond the “rules” that set a pecking order on the bus that the driver posted. One “rule” stated: “The penalty for breaking this code is banishment.”
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