It's a startling allegation for anyone whose child takes a school bus.
Jefferson County Under Sheriff Joe Nole said a 12-year-old boy in the Chimacum School District is accused of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl on the school bus they shared.
Nole said the sheriff's department began investigating the alleged crime in March and recommended the boy be charged with child rape in the first degree, child molestation in the first degree, and indecent liberties in April.
Prosecuting Attorney Michael Haas requested a follow up investigation which he received today and has not made a final determination about charges.
"In this type of case, where the charges are so serious and the suspect is so young, we want to make sure we are doing everything as accurately as possible and evaluate the facts as best we can," Haas said.
KING 5 is not identifying the suspect because he is a minor.
KING 5 spoke to the girl's aunt and guardian, who is only being identified as "Rose" to protect her niece's identity.
"I'm angry, I'm confused I feel upset for my niece," said Rose, who found out about the alleged assault after her niece came home from school bleeding.
"When we got to the doctor I found out," Rose said. "I'm still trying to wrap my head around it."
Somehow no one noticed the assault, not other students and not the bus driver responsible for the girl's safety.
According to the Chimacum School District, the bus driver was given a letter of reprimand once before for not realizing a kindergarten student had fallen asleep and failed to get off the bus.
The Chimacum School District's Director of Transportation told KING 5 the district has no written policy requiring older kids to sit apart from younger kids.
She said separating older and younger students on the bus is left up to the driver's discretion but added it is generally done in practice.
Rose believes busing older students separately as a rule or at least separating them on the bus would have protected her niece.
"I think somebody needs to figure out where they went wrong so that no other child has to go through this," Rose said.
King 5 called school districts in King, Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap and Jefferson Counties.
Most said elementary students are generally bused separately from older students, but not one told KING 5 the district had a written policy to separate students based on their ages.
"There is some balancing of geographics and what makes sense for a community," said Washington State Superintendent Randy Dorn.
Dorn's office publishes a handbook that outlines bus driver requirements.
It reads, "A school bus is expected to be a safe places."
It has recommendations on a variety of subjects from how students should sit in the bus, to strategic napping for bus drivers and even what to do if bees get in the bus, but it says nothing about whether elementary aged students should be kept away from their older more developed peers.
"We will take a look at that and make that consideration but what I want people to understand is that it's an outlier situation that actually happened," said Dorn, who said the state is evaluating whether more specific language about separating students should be added to the handbook. "It's always important to protect the safety of kids."
Chimacum's Superintendent Rich Stewart declined an interview with King 5 because of the district's ongoing investigation into the assault, but the district's Director of Human Resources Stephanie McCleary told King 5 the district would be rewriting its bus policy to include language about separating older and younger students.
McCleary said it was against district policy to discuss student discipline. Haas said he believed the accused had been expelled.
McCleary said the district has not made a determination about whether the bus driver will receive a letter of reprimand but added he had not been removed from his route at this time.
Rose said she won't be putting her niece on the bus again. She said she is now working fewer hours so that she can drop her niece off and pick her up from school.
"We take her to and from school for her safety," Rose said. "I have lost a lot of trust in the school district."