CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, SC (WBTV) -The parents of a 4-year-old girl with autism are sharing the video of their daughter being attacked on a Chesterfield County School bus with the hope that more supervision will be provided to children with special needs.
The family’s attorney Patrick McLaughlin shared the video with WBTV as well as photos of the child’s bruises from the incident. The video captured on Nov. 5, 2018 from school bus surveillance footage shows the 4-year-old girl, who is nonverbal, quietly riding to school strapped to her seat in a harness.
About 20 minutes into the ride, a boy gets on the bus. For the next hour he is seen repeatedly punching and hitting her. According to a Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office report, the girl’s parents noticed bruises and bite marks on her left leg and arm, her lip was busted and she had a mark on her neck.
The bus driver, who was a substitute that day, checked on the girl several times since she can be heard crying and screaming throughout the ride. At one point, it appears the driver catches the boy hitting the girl. He can be heard saying “leave her alone.”
The abuse continues until the girl is dropped off at school. A second video shows a teacher helping the littler girl back on the bus in the afternoon. The girl appears to be upset when she sees the same boy who allegedly attacked her that morning. The teacher asked the bus driver if anything unusual happened that morning. The bus driver says she was crying, but he wasn’t sure why.
The ride home was similar to the morning route. The boy appears to be hitting the girl again. He also appears to hit another student sitting across from him.
In January, the bus driver, identified as Ronnie Sires, was charged with criminal neglect of a child. The Chesterfield County School District says he was also placed on administrative leave.
Meanwhile, the child who appears to have assaulted the girl will not face any criminal charges. According to the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office, the boy is too young to face charges even as a juvenile.
The family’s attorney says they want adults to ride on school buses for more supervision over children with special needs. Their attorney released the following statement:
"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."
The Chesterfield County School District also responded to the incident saying:
"There was a substitute bus driver driving that day of the incident. The driver was immediately placed on administrative leave while the district conducted an investigation. Substitute bus drivers have to go through the same hiring process and training as regular drivers. There is even additional training for special needs drivers and sub drivers to know how to properly use the safety restraints and lifts for wheelchairs and car seats.
State law does not require aides to be on buses unless it is specifically spelling out in the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). In September the district began working with the State Department of Education’s Driver Trainer PJ Krouse to look at our procedures as it relates to special needs bus routes. On Nov. 2, Krouse 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."