Parents of autistic girl kicked off bus sues Hillsborough school - WRBL

Parents of autistic girl kicked off bus sues Hillsborough schools

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Image taken from the video footage on the bus Image taken from the video footage on the bus

One year after school bus driver Stephanie Wilkerson was accused of kicking an 8-year-old autistic girl down a flight of bus stairs, the girl's parents are suing the Hillsborough County school district and School Board.

Kyinesha Johnson broke her ankle in the fall and couldn't walk for nearly two months, her parents say. In a lawsuit filed last week, Curtis and Margaret Johnson blame a lack of training and supervision of the district's special-needs employees.

Related story: Driver 'kicks' autistic child off Hillsborough Co. school bus

They list other incidents that have plagued the county's exceptional student education program, including the 2012 deaths of 7-year-old Isabella Herrera, who had a neuromuscular disorder and died after she stopped breathing on a school bus, and Jennifer Caballero, an 11-year-old with Down syndrome who wandered away from her gym class at Rodgers Middle School in Riverview and drowned in a retention pond.

"The school board and school district engaged in an ongoing pattern, practice and custom of failing to ensure the safety and well-being of ESE students," the civil complaint states.

Wilkerson's actions were "egregious" and "shock the conscience," according to the complaint. The Johnsons are seeking damages of at least $15,000.

On Sept. 28, 2012, Wilkerson urged the 8-year-old girl to get off the bus, but Kyinesha was having trouble following directions due to her disability, the suit states. She just stood in the stairwell. Her pause was captured on the bus's surveillance video, released by prosecutors in March.

The video shows Wilkerson pushed the girl, causing her to fall to the ground outside Tampa Bay Boulevard Elementary School in Tampa. At the hospital, a doctor said the girl suffered a sprained ankle.

However, a few days later, the girl complained of pain and refused to walk. A different doctor said she had fractured her ankle.

The lawsuit states that Kyinesha was unable to walk for nearly two months. She used either a wheelchair or crawled.

Wilkerson was immediately suspended, then fired. She was also charged with aggravated child abuse.

School district spokesman Stephen Hegarty declined to comment Tuesday because of the open litigation. But in the past, he has called Wilkerson's actions "completely unacceptable." Also, the district has contended it is not responsible for what it considers an "intentional act."

A school district attorney has cited a state law that says the government is not liable if an employee acts "in bad faith or with malicious purpose or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety or property."

The school district has not formally replied to the complaint.

Wilkerson's criminal trial is scheduled to begin March 24.

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