Parent of special needs child sues Phila. School Dist., bus co. over alleged assault incident

By Jon Campisi | Nov 8, 2013

A lawyer representing the Philadelphia School District and All City

Transportation in a case arising from an alleged incident in which a bus aide attacked a young child with autism has moved to transfer the litigation to federal court.

Diane Bernoff, an attorney from the school district’s Office of General Counsel, filed a removal petition Nov. 7 seeking to transfer a civil action initiated by a parent identified only as Theresa V. from state to federal court.

The record shows that the plaintiff filed suit in early October against the district and All City Transportation, which contracts with the district to transport students with special needs to and from school.

In the complaint, the mother claims that her son, identified only by his first name, Anthony, who is 10 years old and has autism, was slammed to the floor of the bus and held there for an extended period of time by a transportation aide who apparently had become “frustrated with Anthony’s ‘mouth,’” the lawsuit states.

The alleged incident occurred on June 8, 2012, while the boy was riding a bus to the Elwyn Davidson School in Media, Delaware County.

The child had attended school in Philadelphia from kindergarten through most of second grade, but was eventually eligible to receive special education and related services at Elwyn, which offers a full-time emotional support program.

The complaint says that the school district was well aware that Anthony had behavioral issues with female aides, and that the presence of a female aide on the bus could cause the boy to experience “increased behavioral and defiance issues, leading to increased danger to Anthony.”

Nevertheless, the plaintiff claims, the city provided a female aide on the bus her son was riding early last June.

The suit further alleges that the transportation company failed to obtain a copy of the boy’s IEP, or individualized education program, and was thus unfamiliar with his individual emotional and behavioral needs.

During the bus ride, the complaint states, the aide, who is not identified by name and is not a party to the litigation, told the driver she was tired of the boy’s “mouth.”

It was at this point that the woman allegedly picked the boy up out of his seat and slammed him to the floor of the bus, causing Anthony to sustain deep bruises on his back and buttocks.

All the while, the bus driver apparently refused to intervene.

The boy’s grandparents subsequently reported the incident to the Philadelphia School District and the Elwyn school, the lawsuit states.

The complaint further alleges that the situation involving Anthony was not the only incident to take place on that particular bus.

The boy told subsequently informed Elwyn staff that a wheelchair-bound student who “screams a lot,” had a device resembling a muzzle put over his mouth by the bus driver.

The lawsuit claims that the bus driver and another aide, both of whom are employed by All City, were subsequently arrested and prosecuted in connection with the incident.

Specifics with regard to their criminal cases were not immediately known.

The complaint contains counts of negligence, recklessness, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment.

The suit also accuses the defendants of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Bernoff, the lawyer representing the defendants, said the matter belongs at the Eastern District of Pennsylvania because that court has jurisdiction over claims involving alleged violations of federal law.

The suit was originally filed on Oct. 2 at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas by Berwyn, Pa. attorneys Michael Gehring and Dennis C. McAndrews.


The state case ID number is 130903991 and the federal case number is 2:13-cv-06500-JCJ.

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