Autistic Girl Kicked Off Bus By Driver, Literally: Video Released
A video was released Wednesday by Hillsborough County schools, showing the bus driver pushing an 8-year old autistic girl off the steps of a school bus and onto the ground, last fall.
Police said 41-year-old Stephanie Wilkerson was driving the special-needs children to school in Tampa, Florida on Sept. 28, 2012 when the 8-year-old wanted to get off the bus. She was told to wait her turn, but police said she slapped and pushed the driver.
Video from a camera mounted on the bus shows the girl standing at the school bus door when Wilkerson kicked the girl in the back, forcing the girl to fall. The girl suffered a broken ankle from the fall.
Wilkerson was arrested at the bus yard on October 25, 2012. Wilkerson now faces aggravated child abuse charges. She was also overheard saying, "I'd buy a belt if she were mine. She would not hit adults ever again." School officials said she was hired in Aug. 2008 earning $11.20 an hour. Then was suspended without pay in November and fired in January 2013.
The girl's parents are suing the Hillsborough County school district, which has seen two special needs students die since the September bus incident, according to local station WFLA. They report, "The firing followed two other incidents involving special education students. Since then, the district has formed a task force to try and address any issues relative to the way teachers and bus drivers deal with special needs students."
Last October, a family sued the school district claiming that their daughter choked to death because her wheelchair was not properly positioned on the bus, sending her into respiratory distress.
In another case, a child with Down Syndrome wandered away from school and drowned in a nearby pond.
According to ABC Action News, critics call it an example of a chronic problem with the district, reflecting a lack of training for ESE educators.
"There's a lack of training of staff. There's a lack of supervision," said Jose Colindres. "This is a systemic problem. This is something that needs to be addressed at the very highest levels."
"If a bus driver or teacher or anyone makes contact with a student that results in injury, we take that very, very seriously," Steve Hagerty, spokesman for Hillsborough County school district, told WFLA.com. "You are the adult. You have to show restraint. You are held to a very high standard. Pushing a student where they fall of the bus and injure themselves -- it is obviously beyond anything they are allowed to do."
Records show she pleaded not guilty to the charge of child abuse.
Autistic Child Kicked Off Bus By Driver
For the first time, the public is getting look at a video that shows a
Hillsborough County school bus driver pushing a special needs
student off the bus last fall.