Police arrest CMS bus driver accused of swabbing children’s cheeks for money

The Highlights
  • Police arrest CMS bus driver
  • Parents claim bus driver swabbed children's cheeks for money, calling it a COVID-19 test
  • Channel 9 has been investigating similar claims of cheek swabbing from people who are homeless

CHARLOTTE — Police have arrested a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bus driver accused of swabbing children’s cheeks for $5.

Channel 9 first started investigating this after several parents contacted us in February, saying their children’s mouths were swabbed on their school bus. The students were from Ridge Road Middle School.

Tuesday morning, CMS police issued an arrest warrant for 35-year-old Raina McManus.

According to the warrant, McManus is accused of giving the students money to swab their cheeks for a COVID-19 test on Feb. 15. The warrant said she did not have approval from CMS, the principal of Ridge Road Middle School or the students’ parents.

She was arrested later Tuesday and charged with soliciting during school hours without permission of school head and private use of a publicly owned vehicle.

PAST COVERAGE:

“Why she would put our children in danger, because that’s how I felt she did. And what was she thinking?,” parent Dawn Thompson said.

Thompson’s daughter was one of those children swabbed in the bus. She said she is relieved and happy after learning an arrest warrant was issued for McManus.

She has been asking questions of CMS and investigators for months, but most of the information she has been getting is from Channel 9.

“I fell like the news, the media got us this far, to tell you the truth,” Thompson said.

(TIMELINE: Channel 9 investigation into reports of suspicious cheek swabbing)

She still has a lot more questions though, specifically who McManus was working for.

Channel 9′s John Paul confirmed McManus was doing work for the National Institute of Molecular Diagnostics. The lab said the samples from the children were destroyed.

Just last week, we learned the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services referred the matter to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney for further legal investigation.

“This is our community, and no one should be messing with our children,” Thompson said.

CMS said in early March that McManus had been suspended without pay since the incident happened. On Tuesday, the school district said she was terminated March 22.

Statement from the District Attorney’s Office:

“Criminal charges have been filed against Raina McManus. CMS police presented evidence to the District Attorney’s Office concerning an incident that occurred on a CMS school bus on February 15, 2022, and upon review of the investigation, the District Attorney’s Office approved the filing of criminal charges pursuant to the office’s responsibilities under N.C. General Statute 15A-301(b1). Prosecutors have not been presented with any investigation concerning other individuals, entities, or organizations. As this is a pending criminal matter, ethical obligations prohibit the DA’s Office from commenting further at this time.”

(WATCH BELOW: Action 9 learns about scam with similarities to alleged cheek swabbing incident)