Suit: Bus company, aide failed to protect autistic boy
A lawsuit has been filed by the mother of a 13-year-old boy who is on the autism spectrum, alleging the bus transportation company failed to keep him safe when he was attacked earlier in the school year and then lied about it.
The boy, who has been out of school since the incident, has suffered physical and emotional harm as a result of the attack on the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools bus, according to the suit filed last week in Oakland County Circuit Court.
The lawsuit claims the Walnut Creek Middle School student was riding the bus home from school on Sept. 19 when a new boy joined. For the two years prior to the new boy's arrival, the student rode with only one other child.
The new boy was "much larger" than the student, and "prone towards fits of violence," according to the lawsuit. Of the three children riding the bus, the new boy was the only one physically restrained during the ride, the lawsuit claims.
"During the ride home," the lawsuit says, "(The student) was in his seat, lying down, when (the new boy), unprovoked, reached over to him and gouged his face, causing visible injury."
The student has low verbal abilities, the lawsuit says, and "tried to alert (the bus driver and the paraprofessional)...the only way he could -- screaming, crying and yelling."
They allegedly "ignored his pleas and told him to quiet down."
When the new boy's stop came up, " a paraprofessional got behind (the boy) and unhooked his restraints, leaving a clear path between him and (the student)," rather than getting between the two boys, the suit claims. It says that, once unrestrained, "(The boy) immediately ran towards (the student) and began bashing him on the head and shaking him."
The lawsuit claims that had the first attack been properly addressed, the second attack wouldn't have happened, and that the two boys shouldn't have been that close.
Despite the student's injuries, the suit claims that the adults on board never contacted his family, Walled Lake police, EMS or the school. The student, the suit claims, "walked off the bus with blood running down his face."
The suit says that when the bus driver did speak to the student's father, he told him the student "had been crying on the bus and hitting the window."
Dean Transportation, which employed both of the adults on board, "refused to release footage of the incident for over 24 hours, further preventing doctors from providing...medical care," says the lawsuit.
In the more than two months since, the student hasn't been back to school and his "behavior has regressed dramatically," including an anxiousness in vehicles, according to the suit.
Josh Hovey, a spokesman for Dean Transportation, says the school superintendent arranged a meeting with company owner Kellie Dean a day after the incident, which is when the family saw the video footage and was given a copy of it.
"Kellie Dean acknowledged that while the two adults onboard immediately intervened to separate the students, that the communication between the aide and driver on the bus at the point of drop-off did not meet the company’s expectations," Hovey said in a statement.
Hovey says the company has taken steps to improve communication and review protocols between drivers, aides and parents. He also said Dean Transportation intends to defend itself against the allegations in the lawsuit.
Walled Lake Consolidated Schools did not immediately respond to requests for comment.