Charges dropped against bus monitor accused of abusing special needs students

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — Charges were dropped against a school bus monitor accused of abusing special needs children.

The decision stems from a state law that allows corporal punishment in schools.

The district said corporal punishment is not allowed in schools or on school buses, but the state attorney's office said state law allows it when children are behaving badly.

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Because of that, 32 charges were dropped against the bus monitor.

Parents were shocked about the decision.

"Let down the entire special needs community," said parents Jessica Kemp.

Kemp's two special needs children were riding the bus in May when the sheriff's office reports school bus video shows the man using corporal punishment on four kids.

The report said the bus monitor put one child in a headlock and a shoe over the mouth of another.

“(It’s) something you wouldn’t do to animals,” said parent Chris Manuzza.

The state attorney's office said, "The behavior is not to be condoned or modeled" but "the conduct does not rise to the level of criminal child abuse."

Lake County Public Schools said corporal punishment is not allowed in the classroom nor on the bus, but the state attorney's office said Florida law does allow parents and other adults to use it, arguing the four children in this case were "kicking and punching other students, "and "screaming, hitting defendant," so "defendant's behavior arguably falls under the corporal punishment privilege given his role as a bus monitor."

"They're not bad kids. They just have to be approached differently," Kemp said.

The Lake County School District said the bus monitor will never work for the district again, and reports putting more emphasis on de-escalation and student management when training new bus monitors.