District looking to hire school bus monitors after autistic child badly assaulted on bus
CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, S.C. (WPDE) —
The Chesterfield County School District is looking at options to obtain monitors on special needs buses after a 4-year-old, non-verbal, autistic child was badly assaulted by a fellow student while on the bus, according to Chesterfield County School District Public Information Officer Ken Buck.
The child was kicked, punched, bitten and slapped by a 9-year-old boy back in November. It happened during the morning and afternoon school bus routes.
Attorney Patrick McLaughlin with Wukela Law Firm in Florence is representing the 4-year-old's family and released video of the school bus assault.
The video is pretty disturbing to watch. The child can't talk, but is heard in the video and screaming and crying.
The bus driver continues to drive and appears to not realize what's going on.
McLaughlin released the following statement on the family's behalf:
"Over three months after a 4-year old non-verbal autistic student was repeatedly attacked by another student on both the morning and afternoon special needs bus route in Chesterfield County, the parents of that child have concerns about what Chesterfield County School District is doing to protect the children that they carry back and forth to school. While the bus driver was terminated and is now facing criminal neglect charges, the parents of the young girl that was attacked are concerned that not enough has been done to ensure such incidents do not happen in the future. Specifically, they are concerned that there was no monitor on the special needs bus their daughter rode on November 5, 2018 and that it appears the school district still has no monitors in place on the special needs bus. Additionally, upon review of the videos that show a student punch, kick, bite and grab their restrained and defenseless daughter over 70 times, it appears as though another special needs student on that bus was attacked several times. From the paperwork available in the criminal case, it does not appear as though either the school district or law enforcement identified these other attacks.The videos in this case are appalling. These children are defenseless. They are strapped in so that they cannot defend themselves or avoid these attacks. They are non-verbal, so they cannot communicate what is wrong. They can only cry out in pain. These parents are publicizing what happened to their daughter in the hope that no other child’s cries go unheard."
Buck released the following as to why there are no monitors on special needs buses:
"There is no law that says you have to have monitors on buses. In September we began working with the State Department of Education’s Driver Trainer PJ Crouse to look at our procedures as it relates to special needs bus routes. On November 2nd Mrs. Crouse gave us information that shared best practices as it relates to special needs transportation including training. We are currently looking at possible changes in the future as it relates to monitors on special needs buses."
The S.C. Department of Education said districts have to provide a monitor or attendant on special needs buses if a student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) calls for a monitor.
Buck added they immediately put the driver on administrative leave while they investigated the issue.
He said they also viewed the tape to see exactly what took place.
"The principal and district transportation area director came in the next day which was a holiday to view the footage. We called the other parent and let them know about the inappropriate behavior on the bus and what disciplinary action was being taken," said Buck.
An incident report says the bus driver was charged with the unlawful neglect toward a child because he didn't ensure the safety of all children on his bus.
The report says the bus driver said he had no idea what was taking place. On the video when he reaches the child's stop, he tells the 4-year-old's parents that he didn't know why the child was crying.
Buck said the district is saddened by the behavior of another special needs child hurting another student and have taken appropriate action steps to make sure this does not happen again.
"Again, we are always looking for ways to improve. With the incident and State Department information, we are currently looking at options to obtain monitors with current personnel as well as possibly hiring positions, which we were doing before the incident," said Buck.