Preschool teacher caught hauling 19 kids in minicar, gets a timeout

Nuclear physicists. Tornado chasers. Presidential debate-room spinners. All have easier jobs trying to handle unpredictable energy than a typical preschool teacher dealing with a throng of four to six-year-olds. It's not the best choice of profession for someone who decides the best way to take a field trip involves packing 19 children into a car the size of a Honda Fit.

According to reports from Pretoria, South Africa, teacher Melanie Minnie from the Rietfontein nursery school decided last Wednesday to haul her 31 wards to a mall about a mile away for a celebratory lunch. While such a trip would involve a convoy of minivans at most American preschools, for reasons that no one has yet to unearth, Minnie decided to haul all of the children herself in a Renault Clio, a subcompact five-door hatchback. Mall patrons apparently noticed children tumbling from the Clio like circus clowns and called police, who found three children in Minnie's front seat, 11 in the rear seat and six in the hatch.

Minnie admitted to police she was at the tail end of her hauling -- as she had already delivered the 31 kids to the restaurant, and taken back another 12 to the preschool while leaving the last 19 on the restaurant's playground during her shuttling. In the United States, Minnie would have faced multiple charges, several lawsuits and at least one Lifetime movie of the week portrayal for her poor judgment. Instead, local police gave her a traffic citation worth $170 and arranged to have the children toted back in less extreme conditions, noting that she couldn't be punished for the other trips since they weren't witnessed.

"It is the first time we went on an outing," Minnie told the Beeld newspaper. "And the last time."

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