Updated 2:35 p.m. | Posted 12:43 p.m.
A school bus aide who works with special needs children in the South Washington County Schools has been charged with second-degree sexual assault for allegedly molesting six girls ages 3 to 5.
Harvey Theodore Kneifl, 70, of Woodbury was arrested after police received allegations from parents of a district preschool student that their daughter had told them of having been inappropriately touched on the way to school on Friday morning.
Kneifl is seen on video from inside the bus on two occasions, touching the children on their genitals over their clothing, the Washington County Attorney's Office said Thursday in announcing the charges.
According to the charging document, Kneifl denied rubbing any of the girls' genital areas but admitted "he likes to tickle, poke and hug the children" and "that he puts his hands on the girls' thighs, rubbing them."
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput called Kneifl's alleged acts "totally abhorrent to society. The case will be prosecuted with that standard in mind."
Woodbury Public Safety spokesperson Michelle Okada said the school district is cooperating with the investigation.
"They're providing us any information related to any of the routes that the subject worked on as far back as they're able to find the video," she said. "We'll continue to investigate that. The charges would change if additional victims are identified."
District officials said Thursday they've launched their own investigation into the matter.
Superintendent Keith Jacobus said the district received the complaint on Feb. 6. "We immediately placed the employee on paid administrative leave and commenced an investigation into the situation by engaging a qualified outside investigator," he wrote in a memo to district parents, adding, "that investigation is ongoing and it is fair to say that we are giving the matter our utmost attention."
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