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Ethel Quade Ressler, a former bus driver and contractor for St. Mary’s public schools, was sentenced Friday to spend 10 days in jail for being impaired by alcohol when she arrived at a high school to transport students home.

Ressler, 69, was convicted in May of attempting to drive a vehicle while impaired by alcohol while transporting a minor after she was arrested at Leonardtown High School on Dec. 13, 2012, and found to have a blood-alcohol content of 0.19, according to the state prosecutor’s office.

Ressler said she was not scheduled to be driving a bus she owns on the afternoon of Dec. 13, but after one of the drivers cancelled she decided to take the route and drove the school bus from her home in Mechanicsville to Leonardtown High School.

“She panicked and made a very terrible decision,” Dan Slade, Ressler’s lawyer, said.

Someone called emergency dispatchers and reported a bus swerving on the road before she arrived at the school. At Leonardtown High, students had begun boarding Ressler’s bus at the end of the school day when police arrived.

School transportation officials said she is no longer permitted to drive a bus in St. Mary’s.

“That is a reckless disregard for the safety and lives of children,” St. Mary’s District Judge Christy Holt Chesser said.

The judge suspended a 180-day jail sentence to 38 days, further reduced by 28 for time she spent in a rehabilitation program.

“It was the worst day in my life and I apologize I made such a stupid call,” Ressler said in the courtroom Friday.

She was escorted out of the courtroom to immediately begin her 10 days in jail.

jyeatman@somdnews.com