MCSD disputes parents' allegation that employee assaulted son but agrees to release video

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 21, 2013 

Muscogee County School District interim superintendent John Phillips disputes the allegation that an employee assaulted a 10-year-old autistic student on a school bus, but he agreed Thursday to release the video.

Phillips said in an email that “much of what has been reported is inaccurate.”

Read Thursday's print story here.

Reached by telephone to explain what he thinks is inaccurate about the alleged assault, Phillips declined to be specific. “I don’t feel comfortable at this point,” he said.

That explanation might come Friday, when Phillips is scheduled to release the video at a 10 a.m. news conference on the third floor of the Muscogee County Public Education Center.

The student’s parents, Lisa and Ed Jenkins, emailed MCSD officials a privacy waiver Thursday that permits the district to release the security video of the Feb. 7 afternoon bus ride from Hannan Elementary Magnet Academy to Easter Seals of West Georgia. That video shows the alleged assault.

“Let the video be seen,” Lisa Jenkins said. “Let the video speak for itself.”

The Columbus Police Department is investigating the alleged assault, Lt. Warren Dunlap confirmed Wednesday, but no update on the case was available Thursday.

The Jenkinses were notified that their son wasn’t getting off his afternoon bus when directed, so they met with MCSD officials in the district’s headquarters March 14 to view videos of their son’s Feb. 5, 6, 7 and 8 afternoon bus rides. They said they saw an escalating series of verbal confrontations that culminated Feb. 7, when the bus paraprofessional allegedly yanked their son’s arm and slung him around to get him to sit down.

The incident happened while the bus was in motion and their son wasn’t wearing his required seat belt, Ed Jenkins said.

They didn’t see the Feb. 8 video because they were told it had technical difficulties, Lisa Jenkins said. Since viewing the videos, she drives her son to the Easter Seals program instead of allowing him to take the bus.

Their son was the only student on those bus rides. Two adults accompanied him: the bus parapro, who monitors his behavior, and the bus driver. They still are MCSD employees and — “to my knowledge,” Phillips said — still are working in the same capacity as they did Feb. 7. MCSD human resources officials weren’t reached to confirm their status.

Asked whether the bus parapro and driver were disciplined at all, Phillips said, “I can’t get into that either.” Lisa Jenkins insists they should be.

“They do not need to be around these children,” she said.

Phillips said in his email, “The district is committed to protecting the safety and rights of all its students and employees and, based on the information it has, believes that its staff’s actions were consistent with that commitment to student safety.”

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