NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – The father of a Newport News student with autism filed a $15 million lawsuit against the school board and two employees alleging that a bus driver’s assistant hit his child and let him off the bus half-nude.
The lawsuit was filed by attorneys representing Mathew Harvey and his 9-year-old son on May 5. They claim the Newport News School Board failed to protect the Kiln Creek Elementary School student in September when the bus driver’s assistant allegedly hit him in the face and said she wished she could “whip his tail.” The lawsuit describes the boy as having autism, being nonverbal, and having “severe cognitive disabilities and seizure disorders.”
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 Tuesday, but she declined to comment.
The boy was riding the bus home on Sept. 30 when the bus driver’s assistant allegedly hit him in the face and said twice that she wished she could “whip his tail.” The 9-year-old then removed his 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 the boy off at his stop partially nude, the lawsuit claims.
The bus driver’s assistant also allegedly called the student an “animal” the day before the incident 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.
Both incidents were caught on camera. 10 On Your Side’s investigative team requested the video from Newport News Public Schools through a Freedom of Information Act, but officials declined to release it under the personnel exemption.
The lawsuit claims that the Newport News School board reviewed camera footage from the school bus and acknowledged “several areas of concern.” School officials called the bus driver’s assistant’s actions “callous” and said they directly violated several policies. The lawsuit states although officials and the bus driver’s assistant signed a letter in December acknowledging the incidents, both the assistant and bus driver continue to work for NNPS.
10 On Your Side also requested a copy of that letter, but NNPS officials declined to release it. We requested comment from both the boy’s attorneys and the school system but received none before publication.
Late Tuesday afternoon, 10 On Your Side received this statement from Newport News Schools and the School Board:
Newport News Public Schools cannot comment on the pending lawsuit. The school division remains committed to ensuring the well-being and care of all students.Newport News Public Schools