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Fosston bus driver threatens lawsuit after Facebook video

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FOSSTON — A Fosston school bus driver who allegedly condoned bullying on his route is speaking out and pursuing possible legal action.

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Oran Underdahl, 73, said in a Monday statement that he is evaluating whether he has a legal claim for defamation.

Kristi Hastings, his attorney, said Tuesday that she and her client couldn’t say who would be named as defendants in a potential lawsuit or when it could be filed. She said he will not speak with the news media.

In a video posted on Facebook last week, 8-year-old Anna Cymbaluk tearfully told her mother about being repeatedly bullied on the bus by other students. Her 7-year-old brother Ben, who was also in the video, said the driver did nothing to stop the bullying and was mean to his sister.

Underdahl, who was named in the video by the boy, denies the allegations.

“I have an impeccable safety record and no disciplinary history,” he said in the statement. “I take pride in my work, and I have genuine concern for the students who ride my bus.

“I have never knowingly allowed a student to be ‘bullied’ on my bus. I have never ‘bullied’ a student on my bus (or anywhere else for that matter).”

Fosston Schools Superintendent Mark Nohner last week said some things mentioned in the video are not 100 percent accurate.

Up until last week’s complaint from the Cymbaluks, Nohner confirmed Tuesday that Underdahl has had no safety or driving infractions or complaints since starting at the district in September 2008. The recent complaint is under investigation, he added.

After Sarah Cymbaluk, Anna’s and Ben’s mother, posted the video on Facebook, it received thousands of shares, and the story was picked by national and international media outlets.

Hastings said Underdahl has not received any threatening feedback as a result of the publicity, but there has been letters of support from community members who “know him and know his character.”

Underdahl acknowledged this support in his press release.

“I love my job and the kids that I have been privileged to serve,” he wrote. “The outpouring of support from Fosston kids and families in the wake of allegations that I have bullied and/or allowed students to be bullied on my bus route has been overwhelming.”

Fosston is a town about 1,500 people in northwest Minnesota.

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Brandi Jewett
Brandi Jewett is an enterprise reporter for the Grand Forks Herald and reports on a variety of topics. Other positions she has held at the Herald include city government reporter, general assigment reporter and news intern. While attending the University of North Dakota, she worked as a news reporter and editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Dakota Student. She now serves as one of its alumni advisers. A native of Valley City, N.D., 23 years worth of winters hasn't scared her out of the state yet. You can follow Jewett and her reporting projects on her blog www.diggingdeeper.areavoices.com
(701) 780-1108
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