An 8-year-old autistic girl was manhandled and taunted by a Californian bus driver on a Vacaville Unified School District bus.
The disturbing video of the ordeal was released by the child’s parents resulted in the arrest of Kim Cheryle Klopson, who was charged with child abuse. She pleaded not guilty.
“I’ve been doing work on behalf of physically and sexually abused kids for 17 years ? many times against school districts – and it’s beyond disturbing to me,” the attorney, Micha Star Liberty, told Huff Post.
According to the authorities, the disturbing incident occurred as Klopson was driving a group of special needs children to Browns Valley Elementary School.
The girl was reportedly accused of blocking the aisle with her leg.
“If you stick your feet out again… you are going to be on the window,” Klopson can be heard saying on the video.
The video got more brutal as the bus halted to a stop at the elementary school. The driver is seen ordering the girl to remain seated while other students exit the vehicle. Klopson then continued to taunt and mock the girl. A paraeducator watched the exchange but did nothing.
“She’s acting like she’s younger than her baby sister,” Klopson said. “She’s only two, how old are you? One? Oh no, a baby.”
She then yanked the girl up.
“OK, so I get to do that again? Help you sit up? Get up,” Klopson said as she slammed the girl down. “You want to crawl, you can crawl.
Klopson then closes the door of the bus ads the paraeducator walked away. She continued to taunt the girl.
“Nah nah nah nah nah,” the bus driver said. “You done? Nah nah nah nah nah.”
The girl is heard crying in the video, “Please stop it. I don’t want to. Stop it.”
Klopson refused to do so.
The video ends as the girls continued pleading and is later taken away by the paraeducator. The scuffle seemingly attracted a crowd which Klopson is seen addressing at the end of the video, “It’s OK, I didn’t hurt her, guys. I mean you’re all like ? it’s OK. Bye… I’ll see you after school. That should be interesting.”
According to Liberty, the incident left the child with many injuries.
“Instead of being taken to the principal’s office or nurse, she was taken to her classroom,” the attorney said. “She complained about physical pain and eventually she was taken to the nurse and the nurse reported it to the principal.”
The attorney also said the parents were informed of the incident well after the girl was already on the bus on her way back from school.
“The parents asked what happened and they were invited down to the school to see portions of the video,” she said. “They were heartbroken, appalled and shocked.”
The Vacaville Unified School District claimed to have fired Klopson but the driver maintained that she quit. The paraeductaor who watched parts of the ordeal is still employed at the school. The parents also plan to sue the school district.
“I don’t know how you can watch a child go through that and then allow the bus driver to shut the door,” Liberty said. “It’s clearly despicable.”
“She’s started therapy for the first time at the young age of 8 to try and work through the trauma that she’s experienced,” she said. “She’s having regressive behavior, nightmares and aversions to certain things. This has had a very significant impact on her.”
Liberty also called out the “heartbreaking” abuse of an autistic child who was trained to use terms to refuse any behavior she did not like.
“This little girl was educated and trained to use her words and to say if she doesn’t want to do something. She was crying and she’s telling the bus driver, ‘I don’t like you’ and ‘I don’t want to’ because she was doing what she was trained to do to help herself. Yet this bus driver clearly wasn’t trained appropriately and didn’t behave in any sort of accordance with norms or standards,” she said.
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