Highline Public Schools says it followed protocols in notifying a student’s parents that a school-bus driver had been accused of slapping their 6-year-old son, who has autism.
Highline Public Schools followed protocols in notifying a student’s parents of an allegation that their 6-year-old autistic son had been slapped by a school-bus driver last month, a spokeswoman said Saturday.
Elizabeth Lyshol, the child’s mother, said Friday that she learned of the incident involving her son, Christian, from another student and wasn’t contacted by the school.
“We fully support the family. We want to make sure something like this never happens again and that Christian is transported to and from school in a way that meets his unique needs,” district spokeswoman Catherine Carbone Rogers said.
A news story on Saturday’s front page of The Seattle Times reported that Jeanette Burrage, a Des Moines City Council member and a former Superior Court judge, has been charged with fourth-degree assault and is facing possible termination for the March 10 incident, in which she is seen in a video slapping Christian’s face.
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Burrage allegedly told district officials and police that Christian, a first-grader at McMicken Elementary School, had struck her on the bus, but she made no mention that she had slapped him. The next day, an older girl told her teacher that she had seen Christian get slapped.
Elizabeth Lyshol told a Times reporter Friday she first learned about the slap after the girl told Christian’s grandmother about the incident, and that no one from the school or district contacted her about it.
Lyshol, her husband and mother were able to view a video of the incident, but said that happened only after she retained a lawyer — and that they were only allowed to see the video one time. Lyshol also said she was surprised to learn that bus drivers don’t receive any training on transporting special-needs kids like Christian.
Carbone Rogers contacted The Times on Saturday to clarify the district’s actions and policies, citing a misunderstanding with a reporter on Friday about what the school district could discuss.
Lyshol could not be reached Saturday.
Carbone Rogers said the allegation did come to light after the girl reported it to her teacher. After that, both the district’s transportation department and Christian’s school contacted Lyshol, she said.
“The transportation director talked to mom as soon as the allegations were known by us,” Carbone Rogers said.
She also said Lyshol was told she could view the video at any time, and as many times as she wanted, but that the district couldn’t release a copy to her.
And Lyshol’s statement that bus drivers don’t receive any training on transporting special-needs students is incorrect, Carbone Rogers said. All drivers are required to undergo a day and a half to two days of training on special-needs children.
She said she doesn’t know whether Burrage was told that Christian is autistic.
“We followed protocol, we did everything we were supposed to do in this case,” Carbone Rogers said.