NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – An attorney representing the Newport News School Board (NNSB) is asking a judge to dismiss a $15 million lawsuit filed against it and two of its employees.

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys on behalf of Mathew Harvey and his 9-year-old son, who is described in the lawsuit as having autism, being nonverbal, and having “severe cognitive disabilities and seizure disorders.”

The lawsuit claims the NNSB was negligent when it failed to protect the Kiln Creek Elementary School student from a bus driver’s assistant on Sept. 30. The employee allegedly hit the boy in the face, said she wished she could “whip his tail,” and let the child off the bus half-nude.

“Mr. Harvey was there to greet his son as he was getting off the bus. If [the child] hadn’t been naked from the waist down, then he doesn’t’ have the ability to communicate to his dad and tell him what happened. There’s a chance Mr. Harvey would have never found out,” Jacob Murov, an attorney representing the family, told 10 On Your Side.

10 On Your Side’s investigative team will not be naming the bus driver’s assistant because she was found not guilty of assault and battery in Newport News Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in January. Our investigative team did reach her by phone on May 30, but she declined to comment.

Newport News Public Schools also declined to comment on the litigation.

The lawsuit claims the Newport News School Board reviewed camera footage from the school bus and acknowledged “several areas of concern.” In December, a transportation supervisor issued a letter of reprimand to the bus driver’s assistant, calling her actions “callous” and a direct violation of several policies. The lawsuit states that the employee signed the letter, but she and the bus driver were allowed to continue working for NNPS.

Attorney Richard Matthews is representing NNSB and the two employees. In writing, he told the judge that the bus driver’s assistant signed the December letter to acknowledge that she received it – not because she agreed with its finding. Murov said the assistant had an opportunity to dispute the letter’s findings, but didn’t.

“They’re trying to argue that what is written by the transportation supervisor is somehow not accurate,” he added.

Matthews also said video of the incident doesn’t support the claim that the driver’s assistant hit the child, but that she had “incidental contact” with him because he was chewing on a wet sock. Matthews also wrote that any statement made by a person who “wishes” they could do something to someone doesn’t meet the “dictionary definition” of a threat.

Murov called Matthews’ response “completely inconsistent” with the December letter, which was written by a Newport News Public Schools transportation supervisor.

The lawsuit alleges that the 9-year-old removed the clothing from the lower half of his body. Instead of helping him get dressed or asking his father for help, the bus driver and the assistant allegedly let him off at his stop partially nude.

Matthews said the employees, who are both women, didn’t feel comfortable re-dressing the boy. He also said that the employees explained the situation to the boy’s father at the bus stop, and he chose not to dress the child before taking him from the bus.

The bus driver’s assistant also allegedly called the student an “animal” on Sept. 29 and grabbed another student by the strap of his back and jerked him into his seat as he boarded the bus, according to the lawsuit. Matthews’ response called the boy’s conduct that day “uncontrollable.”

Murov said the transportation employees didn’t tell the boy’s father about any behavioral issues.

“Usually when a kid is disruptive or their behavior is uncontrollable, normally the parent would get a notification through the school,” Murov said. “Obviously Mathew Harvey didn’t get a communication in regard about disruptive behavior.”

Matthews asked a Newport News judge to dismiss the lawsuit against his clients. A hearing date hasn’t been set yet.

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