Venice bus driver arrested for battery after touching 13-year-old student

VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) – A 70-year-old bus driver was arrested this week for inappropriately touching a middle school student in Venice.

Leonard Villari faces a single count of battery following a series of incidents dating back to 2016.

Police opened an investigation after the victim reported that Villari, her former bus driver, had approached her in the school’s cafeteria and started playing with her hair. She told them Villari then followed her into the lunch line and later winked at her and stroked her hair and neck a second time.

Detectives say video surveillance from the school’s cafeteria corroborated her claims.

She also told deputies Villari commonly called her “baby girl,” and often told the victim he loved her and knew where she lived.

Villari was arrested and charged with a single count of battery. He was released Wednesday on a $25,000 bond.

The school district says if Villari is no longer allowed to drive a school bus or have contact with students, pending the judicial outcome of the case. He will be assigned duties elsewhere in the Sarasota County School District Transportation Department.

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