A bus aide and driver have been suspended from Stark County Schools after disturbing allegations arose about the treatment of a young boy in their care.
On May 22, 2019, 7-year-old Steven rode the bus home with his aide for the last time. The next day, his mother, Barbara Keske, got an email from his principal saying that Steven had hit his bus aide and was now suspended from the bus. Keske went to the school to chat with the principal in person, and told her that it was not normal for her son, who has autism, to hit anyone. Unfortunately, there were no cameras on the bus so they were unable to view the incident themselves.
But his mom soon found out there was much more to the story.
When Keske went home, Steven admitted to hitting the aide by accident. So Keske took away his privileges, like his Xbox and TV, and spoke with Steven’s therapist about it. She also noticed that her son had bruises in several areas of his body.
The whole situation didn’t sit well with Keske. The school district had never contacted her about behavioral issues for Steven before, and this same aide had been helping Steven all year.
Then, over the weekend, she ran into a student who rode the bus with Steven, and the true story came tumbling out.
The student told Keske that the bus aide was trying to put the “screaming bucket” on Steven’s head when the incident occurred on the bus.
The “screaming bucket” was a five-gallon bucket. No other student was subjected to this treatment — only Steven.
Keske went to the police with this new information and they investigated. They took pictures of bruises on Steven’s body and asked him what happened.
“He was so terrified. Breaks my heart. So of course he was doing the blank stare at her, i had to talk to him and let him know he wasnt in trouble,” Keske wrote in a passionate Facebook post about the whole ordeal. Then Steven told the policewoman that the aide “has a screaming bucket and she holds it on my head to make me stop screaming.”
Later, Keske spoke with another student and her mom, and found out even more heartbreaking and horrible information about what happened on the bus.
“Come to find out this has been occurring the whole school year,” Keske wrote. “She holds him down with the bucket on his head, hits, slaps him and so much more!”
The student wrote a statement for the police about what was taking place on the bus, and it was so bad that Keske “couldn’t read it.”
Keske did a lot of investigating on her own, pushing for answers. Besides speaking with other students and their parents, she and her husband spoke with the police, the principal, and wrote to the superintendent.
The Stark County School District released a statement that said:
“An administrator for Stark County Schools was advised after work hours on Monday, May 27 that a bus driver and bus aide had placed a five-gallon pail over a student’s head in an inappropriate attempt to address a behavior concern. An investigation was immediately commenced and school representatives were able to confirm the veracity of the allegation. While the child was not seriously injured, the actions of these employees are clearly contrary to policies and standards of Stark County Schools. The employees were suspended on Tuesday, May 28 pending action by the Board of Education to terminate their employment. They will not return to the school. The School also made reports to the Department of Children and Family Services and local law enforcement.
“The District does not condone the actions of these soon to be former employees and will not tolerate any conduct which harms the well being of our students. The safety and security of our students is the District’s first priority.”
The bus driver, Al Curry, is a 72-year-old retired biology teacher who drives the bus part-time. He has been on the county school board since 2014 and has been chairman for roughly two years.
The name of the aide has not been released as of this writing.
On June 17, the Stark County School Board will make a decision about whether or not to fire the district employees involved in the incident.
“Our Steven has what society calls “disabilities,” his dad, Nicholas, wrote in a Facebook post. “Just because he is wired differently doesn’t make him any less of a human being. He is loving and caring.”
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