A bus driver for the Hamilton Fulton Montgomery BOCES school district was suspended after a video showed the driver berating a special needs student.
In the video from last Tuesday, which can be seen on The Daily Gazette’s website, the driver is seen standing over an 11-year-old special needs student named Caimmeron. The driver shakes his finger and yells at the student angrily, at one point calling him “stupid.” Other adults on the bus can be heard trying to calm the other students down. A girl is screaming in the background.
The bus was being operated by Hamilton Fulton Montgomery BOCES school district and was transporting special needs students from the Gloversville Enlarged School District to the Wildwood school in Schenectady.
HFM BOCES Superintendent Patrick Michel said the district won’t be naming the bus driver, but plans on recommending that he be dismissed.
“It’s my intention to recommend that he be dismissed,” said Michel, noting the process involves a state arbiter. “He’s on paid leave until we go through that process.”
Michel said the incident occurred due to misbehavior among students on the bus and “people feeding off each other,” but that he doesn’t blame the students and was disturbed and upset by the driver’s use of the word ‘stupid.’
“We don’t do that here,” said Michel, who has a special needs child himself. “We treat our special education children like our own children, and I would never ever call my child ‘stupid.’ ”
Michel said his first reaction upon seeing the clip was that he wanted to know the whole story.
“Unfortunately other people reacted before seeing the whole story and we got the Facebook mob,” he said.
The driver in question was the subject of a lengthy and negative discussion on the social media site.
“I have to weigh not only what was see on the video but also a lot of other factors as well,” said Michel. He said he plans to recommend the driver and the district part ways.
“Because it’s a personnel matter I can’t get into all the stuff but I’m weighing a history here too. There’s a lot of things going on, not just that one incident.”
Sharon Pasquarella, whose special needs daughter Julia, 16, was on the bus last week, said she was horrified when when she watched the video after it surfaced on Facebook last Thursday.
“I was sickened by it,” said Pasquarella, whose daughter can be heard screaming in the background on the video. “I was very, very upset, and it was at nighttime, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t sleep that night.”
Pasquerella, whose daughter has a chromosome disorder and is on the autism spectrum, said matters were made worse when the school district refused to pick her daughter up earlier this week.
Michel said that decision was made after Pasquarella posted a comment to Facebook that he believes was threatening.
“Her mother put on Facebook that she didn’t want her picked up, and she actually made threats to some of the adults on the bus and we felt it was a health and safety issue,” said Michel.
Pasquerella said her post indicated that she did not want the driver around her home or picking up her daughter, and that she did not mean it to be threatening.
“I don’t want an abuser by my house, number one, and I didn’t think it was a threat but he took it as such,” she said.
Pasquarella said the district offered to compensate her for mileage or for the cost of arranging private transportation for her daughter during the period they were not picking her up, which she said lasted two days this week.
Michel said the district is working on an alternative transportation plan for Julia and another student on the bus that should be in place by Monday.