News Article Details

Mom sues after school bus aide repeatedly assaults autistic boy

South Florida Sun Sentinel - 10/26/2017

Oct. 26--Two years after a Palm Beach County school bus attendant repeatedly squeezed, punched and taunted an autistic boy, he is still suffering from trauma, his mother alleges in a lawsuit filed this month.

The school district failed to train the bus driver and aide to properly work with children with disabilities, thus violating her son's rights granted by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the suit alleges.

"Non-disabled children are not subjected to improperly trained drivers or aides that inflict punishment on those children in order to control them," the mother wrote in her complaint against the bus attendant and the district.

The details of the assault were caught on video.

On Feb. 214, 2015, her son was riding on a bus for special needs students when the bus aide, Christopher Barker, sat next to him and grabbed the back of his neck, according to the filing.

The student cried out in pain. Barker asked him if it hurt and then said, "it's supposed to."

"I can make it hurt, I can make it hurt worse than this," Barker told the student.

Over the next 15 minutes, the student began yelling with other children on the bus and Barker returned, squeezed the back of the kid's neck and questioned why he kept yelling if he said to stop.

The boy screamed and cried that Barker was hurting him. Barker subsequently pushed his entire weight on the kid, punched him in the back and squeezed him, according to the court filing.

"Take it like a man, but you're not a man, you're a boy," Barker told the student. "You're going to get this every time you get on the bus, every time you misbehave, that's what you're gonna get."

The kid whimpered, "No, no."

The bus driver, meanwhile, continued driving.

Later when police questioned Barker, he said he didn't receive required training from the school district, according to the filing.

The district investigated and recommended Barker be fired but he resigned in advance.

At the time, Barker defended his actions to the Sun Sentinel.

He admitted grabbing the student, but said he only did it to keep him in his seat after the student kept trying to get up.

"It wasn't to grab him to hurt him," Barker said, denying he told the student it was supposed to hurt.

In response to request for comment, the school district stated this week that it takes seriously any allegations of child abuse by its employees.

"This incident highlights why we have video on our school buses -- so we can document, investigate and move to discipline or terminate employees who violate the trust of students in their care."

cmcglade@sun-sentinel.com, 954-356-4528 or Twitter @caitmcglade

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(c)2017 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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