By: Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist
If Delegate Massie of Henrico had hired a publicist for proposed legislation to require training for those who work with autistic children, he could not have designed better results than the made-for-TV real-life episodes of "Banana Man" and the "Bedford Bus Beating".
The 2009 Bedford case, now news because Dad has decided to sue for $20 million, shows an 11 year-old autistic boy being abused by his bus driver and aide. One article reported, "A surveillance video aboard a bus carrying Kilpatrick to a special needs school in Lynchburg shows the driver and aide repeatedly hitting and kicking Kilpatrick who was isolated in a seat by tightened harnesses on each shoulder."
While the two employees were convicted and "left" the school division, the story raises a compelling issue. If a bus driver and aide were "hitting and kicking" a student in front of a camera that they knew was running, what in the world caused them to act this way. As one friend, a long time school bus driver, said recently, "they just didn't care". The state presently requires 8 hours of training for drivers who transport children with special needs.
While training is critical, it also seems that there is no course for care or common sense. The unacceptable and irrational behavior of some employees should not malign or handicap the work of those who care for young people every day…and every mile. And by the way, when you have to transport a student in a restraining harness, what do they do with him when he gets to school?