WAYLAND, Mich. (March 19, 2014)– A mom and dad from Wayland Public Schools say their son was assaulted while riding home on a school bus.
Wayland Police are investigating the incident.
The couple says on March 11 five young boys attacked their special needs child, who suffers from a speech impediment.
Amber said her 9-year-old came home with scratches and bruises and a story that disturbed her and still brings her to tears.
“He was punched repeatedly in his genitals, his neck,” said Amber.
She immediately called the bus garage after her son told her what happened.
However, Amber said she was told by the driver that her son had been acting up and she was also told it was just “rough housing”.
When the bus supervisor showed them a security video recording of the bus ride, they said that story didn’t add up.
“Seeing the video made it real and it lit a fire in me,” said Amber.
She said that she had asked the bus driver if her child was punched in the neck. She said the driver told her that nobody had hit her child in the back of the neck, only grabbed it.
However, she and her husband said that the video showed something very different.
“The video shows him literally bringing his arm back like this and just swinging right down,” said Jeremiah Wonnacott, describing how another child had hit his son in the neck.
Amber and Jeremiah said in addition to what they consider a problem with the driver down-playing the incident, they said the Transportation Supervisor, Jeff Schilthroat, originally didn’t show them the whole video.
“He’s like, ‘That’s all’. Then he stopped it,” they said.
They learned that there was more to the footage only after talking to police.
When the couple found out about the additional footage and requested to watch the entire video, they said it showed more aggression toward their son.
They said it also showed the driver yelling at him, kneeling on the seat and pointing in his face.
Amber said although he had moved away to get away from the fight, the video showed that the driver also moved him back into a seat, close to his alleged attackers once again.
“I kept asking questions and I kept getting told lies,” said Amber.
She said the superintendent, Norm Taylor, was cooperative.
However, she and Jeremiah feel that the transportation supervisor was not as helpful.
We went to talk to Superintendent Norm Taylor who declined an on camera interview, but did say there was no intention to hide anything.
He said he wasn’t sure why the couple wasn’t initially shown the full video by the supervisor.
“I’m not going to speak to what his intentions were,” Taylor said. “Different people react different to different things.”
He added, “We showed it to them yesterday and answered their questions.”
Taylor went on to say that he can’t discuss student disciplinary matters or staff matters regarding this incident.
“If there needs to be a new process, all of our drivers will be trained,” he said. “The students involved are being dealt with.”
We left a voice message with a staff member and also reached out through email asking if Schilthroat would like to comment on the couple’s claims.
We did not receive a comment back as of Wednesday evening. The couple said they feel more forgiving to the kids involved.
Amber said, “What they did was horrible, but they’re children. They’re allowed to make mistakes.”
However, they have a message for other parents when it comes to bullying on the bus and fighting for justice for their kids.
“Don’t just believe everything that you hear,” said Amber. “They painted my son as this horrible kid that just is defiant…If I would have listened to them, I would have punished my son and he was the victim in this whole thing.”
FOX 17 requested a copy of the security video through the Freedom of Information Act.
The superintendent told us Wednesday that they are denying that request because they would have to get permission to release the video from the parents of the children who were on the bus.
Amber said she was hoping that there might be some sensitivity training involved as well with students and staff following the incident since her son had been bullied for his disability for some time.
The superintendent told us they may be looking at some of the programming they do for professional development.
He said, “We pride ourselves in having safe buses and a safe transportation system.”