Family of Autistic Boy Alleges Abuse, Seeks $20 M From School System
Reporter: Rachel Schaerr | Videographer: Jemon Haskins
Roanoke, VA - The lawyer for a Bedford County father has filed a $20 million lawsuit against a number of parties, including a former school bus driver and former driver's aide.
Thomas Kilpatrick, 47, is accusing the two women of physically abusing his 12-year-old autistic son on his way to the Laurel Regional Special Education Center, a special needs school in Lynchburg.
Lawyers for the family say that boy is still suffering from permanent emotional damage more than two years later. Their most compelling evidence is an hour and a half worth of surveillance video from the school bus. They say it captures the autistic boy being hit, kicked and even choked by the former school employees. (You can watch the video to the right.)
P. Brent Brown is an attorney for the Kilpatrick family.
"When people look at the surveillance video they will be horrified," said Kilpatrick from his Roanoke office.
The suit alleges 12-year-old Timothy was strapped into a shoulder harness the morning of September 24, 2009 when the former aide hit him repeatedly with fly swatter, kicked him, and later sprayed an aerosol chemical in his face.
The lawsuit claims on his ride home, the bus driver put on a glove, choked Timothy and left bruises around his neck.
Brown says what happened to Timothy could have happened to anybody.
"What we have here is a disabled child, sweet child, that is being systematically struck and abused over a long period of time," said Brown.
A spokesman for Bedford County schools says the bus driver, Alice David Holland, and her assistant, Mary Alice Evans, were no longer employed by the school system within six days of the video being shot.
But attorneys for the boy's family say his father notified school officials of possible abuse nearly a year earlier when Timothy came off the bus with marks on his face.
Now, they want the Bedford County school system, the bus driver and aide, and the county's director of special services to pay.
"The message that we will be asking the jury to send is that children count. That accountability counts. That vulnerable children need to be protected," said Brown.
The Richmond Times Dispatch reports that both the former bus driver and her aide were convicted of misdemeanor assault charges in this case. Neither they nor an attorney for Bedford County Schools was available for comment.