A bus driver kicked a girl off the bus September 28, 2012, resulting in the 8-year-old autistic child breaking her ankle in the fall. 42-year-old Stephanie Wilkerson's abuse of the child was just released by the Hillsborough County, Fla. school district, with parents and citizens outraged at her actions.
The bus driver kicked the girl off the school bus because the autistic child was not exiting the vehicle quickly enough and had slapped her, police told WFLA 8 News. A video camera mounted in the bus showed Wilkerson overreacting, literally kicking the girl, who fell and injured herself. In background, other children are shown rocking back and forth— a characteristic of some special needs students.
School district officials reacted to the footage decisively, first firing Wilkerson in January following a leave of action. Now the former bus driver is facing aggravated child abuse charges.
"We have seen the video too, and if a bus driver or teacher makes contact with a student that results in an injury like that we take that very, very seriously," Steve Hegarty of the Hillsborough County school district told WFLA.
"You are the adult you have to show restraint to are held to a very high standard ... and pushing a student where they fall off the bus and injure themselves ... it is obviously beyond anything they are allowed to do," he added.
The incident doesn't fare well for the school district, which recently has had two other incidents with special needs students. After the latest problem with Wilkerson, they decided to create a task force made of parents, teachers, and health professionals.
"We have had a task force and some other groups that have looked at making some changes in terms of how we deal with special education children at the school on the bus in general," Hegarty said.
The task force has proposed retraining staff dealing with special needs children, but it is unknown if that training has commenced.