Charges: Woodbury bus assistant inappropriately touched at least 6 young girls

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Harvey Kneifl | Photo: Washington County Sheriff's Office

A Woodbury bus assistant is facing six counts of criminal sexual conduct involving a minor.

Harvey Kneifl, 71, of Woodbury was arrested on Wednesday and charged with six counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct for inappropriately touching at least six girls ages three to five, according to the Woodbury Police Department. He was immediately placed on administrative leave by the school district.

Allegations against Kneifl were first made known to the police on Saturday, Feb. 4 when parents of a pre-school student reported that their daughter told them she was inappropriately touched on the way to school on Feb. 3. Officers collected bus video, rosters, and contact information for the students on the particular bus route and any other routes Kneifl has worked.

According to the criminal complaint, during an interview, Kneifl admitted that he likes to "tickle, poke and hug the children, that he puts his hands on the girls thighs rubbing them." He denied rubbing any of the genital areas, claiming he makes the girls feel good because "they come from a hard life and likely do not get any sort of affection at home," He said he believes he becomes closer to the children than their parents, and he likes sitting by the girls on the bus because they are "more fun."

Kneifl could be in court as soon as Thursday afternoon. This is a developing story and Fox 9 will provide updates as we get them.

The superintendent of South Washington County School District 833, sent this letter to parents.

Dear Parents,

I’m writing today to make you aware of a situation that has come to our attention this week, what we are doing about it and what we plan to do going forward.

On Feb. 6, we received a complaint against one of our transportation department employees. While we are forbidden by law from revealing the details of the complaint, we can share that we immediately placed the employee on paid administrative leave and commenced an investigation into the situation by engaging a qualified outside investigator. That investigation is ongoing and it is fair to say that we are giving the matter our utmost attention.

While it is frustrating to many, data privacy laws prohibit us from providing any additional information about this matter at this time. By law, we are precluded from disclosing the nature of the complaint, the identity of the individual who brought the complaint to us or the identity of any individuals who may have been impacted. Within the bounds of these constraints, we will do our best to honor our obligations to our students, their families and our employees.

The intent of this letter is to inform you of a developing situation, one that we take seriously. It is not intended to communicate that there is an ongoing risk to any student or employee. The safety and security of our students, employees and all who visit our facilities remains our highest priority and is a necessary precursor for providing a high-quality education to our students in an environment that is safe and welcoming for all.

It is possible that other public entities will be able to share more information regarding this situation. Going forward, we will continue to communicate openly and proactively on this issue even as we observe the constraints on what we can – and cannot – say. Should those constraints allow us to be more forthcoming in describing this matter and what we have done – and will do – in response, we will eagerly seize such an opportunity.