Rainier Bus Driver Sentenced to Five Months


A 52-year-old former school bus driver from Rainier will serve five months in jail for assaulting two women and three girls at a high school volleyball game in Onalaska last fall.

Kenneth Sands pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation in early May. Lewis County Superior Court Judge James W. Lawler on Wednesday sentenced Sands to serve five months. The rest of his five-year sentence will be suspended.

“I regret the events that happened on October 18,” Sands said in court Tuesday.

The mother of one of the 15-year-old victims was present at the sentencing.

“It scared and humiliated her so bad it took her a day to tell us,” the mother said.

The victim has needed ongoing counseling following the assault.

“My daughter trusted the adults assigned to her by the school,” she said.

She also read a statement from her daughter, who was not present.

The teenager still has nightmares about the assault, as well as trust issues with older men, according to the teen’s letter.

“Most nights I wake up crying and shaking,” she wrote.

Though Sands, as well as all of the victims, live in Rainier, the incident took place in Onalaska following a volleyball match at Onalaska High School last October.

During the game, Sands sat in the stands and repeatedly touched a 46-year-old woman on the side of her breast and made inappropriate comments, according to court documents.

After the game, Sands allegedly boarded a Rainier School District bus, stood at the top of the stairs, and forced the girls getting on the bus to “squeeze around him,” according to court documents.

Sands, who has a history of bipolar disorder, depression and suicidal thoughts, was generally well-liked in the community, his attorney, Paul Strophy, told the judge.

The day of the incident, Sands was in a demented state of mind, Strophy said. He was suffering from a combination of lack of sleep and too much caffeine.

Sands also recently had changed his bipolar medicine, which may have been a contributing factor to his behavior, Strophy said.

“His behavior that day was completely out of character,” Strophy said.

Lawler said while he did take Sands’ mental health in consideration for his sentencing, it did not mitigate the circumstances of the assault.

“The fact that he has a bipolar disorder is not a defense,” Lawler said.

Corrections officers took Sands into custody immediately following the sentencing.