This morning, the Muscogee County School District released controversial bus surveillance video of a 10-year-old autistic boy whose parents allege was abused by school employees. Interim Superintendent Dr. John Phillips said the district firmly believes the child was not abused and no crime was committed.
Dr. Phillips claimed the employees followed proper procedures, but the parents claimed otherwise. Lisa and Ed Jenkins believe their son was provoked and said if protocol had been followed the incident never would have happened Feb. 7th.
The Jenkins also maintained the press received an edited copy of the tape. The school district said the video has not been edited in any way, except for the required blurring of the employee's faces.
The Jenkins allege the school employees provoked their son verbally. Lisa Jenkins said George does things to get attention and once he knows he's doing something a person doesn't like he continues to do it.
In the bus surveillance video you can hear a woman say, "When you get to Easter Seals, you get off the bus, you hear me?" Lisa claimed that conversation is what made her son continue to misbehave aboard the bus Feb. 7th.
"She's yelling out, the bus driver is, he's not been wanting to get of this bus for two days and that's what prompted the paro-pro onto the bus.... that's what prompted this whole thing," said Lisa.
The video shows George sitting on the bus. Eventually he unbuckled his seat belt and stood up while the vehicle was still in motion. In the video, school employees can be heard repeatedly telling him to sit down, but he doesn't. A para-pro can also be heard threatening to tell George's teacher that he is misbehaving.
Dr. Phillips said the unidentified para-pro was trying to calm George down and get him back in his seat safely, but after many failed attempts she had to use force. "Bus is moving. he's fighting her. That's why she was real patient about the time she took to force him back into being buckled up," Dr. Phillips said.
However, Lisa maintained that was the wrong action to take. "She should have actually gotten up and gone into the protocol off the bat and she didn't."
The Jenkins said there is a procedure for everything in their son's life and school officials are to follow it.
They showed News 3 a copy of his behavior plan from Marcus Autism Center. In it is a three-step approach when trying to get him to comply with directions. The Jenkins said proper procedure is to tell George first, then show and as a last resort physically guide him to do the action.
The school district said they cannot discuss George's individual student plan because it is protected under law. Dr. Phillips said the Jenkins refused to sign a waiver granting them permission to so. Without discussing his educational records Dr. Phillips said the video can be taken out of context because the district cannot explain the protocols and procedures in place for employees.
Ed and Lisa Jenkins said they want the employees removed from their son's service, but the district has yet to comply.
The district maintains their employees did nothing wrong and they have modified the bus protocol to address the family's concerns. Dr. Phillips said the staff in question has been re-trained to address the family's concerns. The modified bus protocol includes pulling the vehicle over whenever George gets out of his seat belt.
"Our staff that works with special needs students are truly the best advocates for special needs children," Dr. Phillips said. The employees have not been disciplined and the school district is not investigating this incident.
Police are still investigating the abuse allegations and have not made a decision on whether charges need to be filed or whether a full investigation needs to be conducted.