CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - The parents of a 4-year-old child with autism are suing Chesterfield County School District, the superintendent and a bus driver after they say their child was repeatedly attacked on the way to school.
In a lawsuit released to WBTV Wednesday afternoon, the parents allege the child, riding a special needs school bus to Ruby Elementary School, was hit almost 100 times by another student to and from school.
The child, who is non-verbal, could be seen in a video being attacked 11 times over the hour-long morning bus ride to school, according to the lawsuit.
In surveillance video, the substitute bus driver, Ronnie Lee Sires who has since been placed on administrative leave, asks the child “What’s wrong, baby?” after the 4-year-old can be heard screaming and crying. The bus driver pulled the bus over and checked the child’s harness straps before telling her to stop crying and returning to his seat to resume the route, according to the lawsuit.
Sires can also be heard saying “Leave her alone. Leave her alone” after catching the other student attacking her, the lawsuit stated.
During the afternoon ride back home the child is again restrained in her seat by the harness, the lawsuit details.
The student begins to beat the 4-year-old in the face with a shoe that he had previously grabbed off another student riding the bus with them, according to the documents.
According to the lawsuit, the child was beaten 85 times during the afternoon ride back home. The lawsuit states she was punched, bitten, grabbed, kicked, shook and slammed. Two other students who were on the bus were also beaten during the ride home.
The lawsuit claims the child was restricted due to the harness and was unable to defend herself or escape the abuse. Sires was later charged with unlawful conduct towards a child.
Prior to the incident, the lawsuit states Chesterfield County School District was notified by the South Carolina Department of Education of the dangers of operating special needs buses without “attendants” due to the possibility of frequent stops.
The family’s attorney released a statement in February expressing their concerns for the school district’s policy to protect special needs students during bus rides.
The school district responded to the incident saying state law doesn’t require assistants on the bus unless stated in the child’s Individualized Education Plan.