RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – No jail time for a bus monitor convicted of a misdemeanor for leaving a 4-year-old alone on a Richmond school bus. 61-year-old Irene Jenkins was acquitted today of felony child neglect, but convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She was sentenced to one year in jail, but it was suspended for three years - as long as she doesn't get into trouble again.
In the courtroom, she said she was sorry and never intended to cause any harm to the child. A Richmond judge told school bus monitor Irene Jenkins, no one thinks you meant to do it, but you put that child in a dangerous situation. He convicted her of a misdemeanor.
Irene Jenkins left 4-year-old Nyheim Butler alone on a city school bus for just under an hour. He's autistic and cannot speak up for himself. He was left on a bus at the bus compound. At the time it was 97 degrees outside. A fellow school bus driver at the compound heard Nyhiehm's screams and cries and rescued the child from the bus.
Jenkins testified in court "I looked in every seat and I didn't see anybody in the seats."
"I hope that these cases will sort of give a wakeup call to people and say, 'hey it's not enough to say I didn't mean to. I need to do something to actively protect children,'" said Mary Langer, Richmond Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney.
Jenkins's defense attorney would not talk to reporters after the judge's decision. In the courtroom she argued, that the bus driver, not the monitor is responsible for getting the kids off the bus.
Jenkins was still employed by the school system pending the outcome of the trial. The prosecuting attorney says Jenkins should lose her job.
"This isn't something you get to do twice, you know. You don't get to risk a child's life and just say, 'I didn't mean that. Hopefully I won't do it again.' I think we need to be very, very careful about who works with children - particularly children with special needs, and if people are not able to give them their full attention, are not willing to give them their full attention then they need to be employed in a different business," said Langer.
A spokesperson for Richmond public schools told us she cannot comment because it is a personnel matter. We know, as part of the policy though, employees convicted of misdemeanors are allowed to work for the district, unless the convictions involved children.
The bus driver that day, Alvin Matthews took a plea deal in November. He was also found guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The felony child neglect charge was dropped and he did not get any jail time.