Protecting Students With Special Needs On The Bus

A young student with special needs was allegedly assaulted by another student on a school bus. His family sued the owner of the transportation providing the service to the school and the bus driver for negligence for failing to protect the 13-year-old boy with autism, who is non-verbal. Both allegedly failed to notify police or medical professionals after the boy was injured.

The boy had been riding the school bus with only one other student for the past two years. However, a new student rode the bus with them in September. That student allegedly "gouged" the face of the 13-year-old with autism and caused visible injuries, according to court documents.

The paraprofessional on the bus unhooked the attacker's restraints when he was preparing to exit the bus, but failed to position herself between the two students. Consequently, the attacker ran toward the victim instead and "began bashing him on the head and shaking him."

When the victim got off the bus, he had blood running down his face, according to the suit. The bus driver told the boy's father that "he had been crying on the bus and hitting the window." The suit states that the victim "screamed, cried, and yelled" but both adults ignored his pleas and told him to quiet down.

The transportation service stated the school district superintendent and one of their representatives contacted the victim's mother on the day of the incident. School officials have reviewed video footage from the bus, and the family has been given a copy.

The owner of the bus apologized to the boy's family and has immediately reviewed communication protocols and expectations between drivers, aides, and parents with all members of his staff. Lauren Slagter "Lawsuit says bus company failed to protect boy attacked on school bus," (Nov. 30, 2017).

Commentary and Checklist

As of 2012, approximately ten percent of all reported middle and high school bullying occurs on the school bus.

The case in the source article highlights the special concern for bullying and violence as to students with special needs. The adults on the bus must be trained to appropriately respond to students with special needs who behave violently and also on how to protect their victims.

Here are some tips for school and school transportation employers:

  • Develop updated pre-employment screening and interviewing protocols for new and experienced bus drivers.
  • Have comprehensive training on student behavior management; working with special education and special needs students; and dealing with parents.
  • Consider your security and emergency preparedness plans.
  • Use technology such as surveillance cameras and two-way communication on school buses.
  • Create guidelines on intervening in student fights on buses.
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