TOULON, Illinois - The mother of a 7-year-old boy with autism is speaking out, after she says a school bus aide allegedly put a 5-gallon bucket over the boy's head to address a screaming fit.
Barbara Keske said her son was suspended from riding the school bus because of a behavior issue.
Keske said her son is a hyperactive special needs student who has never shown aggression towards other students or adults on the bus. However, he does often have what she called "screaming fits" in which he lets out a loud screech.
When she spoke with her son, Steven, he admitted to hitting the aide by accident. But, she said she realized some things were not adding up.
An initial investigation, led by the school, determined that Steven did in fact hit the school bus aide, whose job is to ride the bus and monitor behavior, according to Keske.
A few days later, during a trip to the gas station, Keske said a student, who rides the same bus as Steven, approached her and told her about "the screaming bucket."
"He goes, "yeah Steven hit the bus aide because he was trying to get the bucket off his head,"" said Keske. This was the first time she said she had ever heard of this bucket.
"He went on to explain to me how she put it on his head. That it was called a screaming bucket."
Keske asked the other student if any other children are disciplined using the bucket, and the student said "it's just for Steven," Keske said.
Keske said the school district never contacted her about behavior issues in the past, and the aide had worked with her son all year.
"I am in disbelief that an adult, especially someone that works for the school, would think that it's okay to put her hands on my child, yet along a bucket on my son’s head," said Keske.
In a statement, the Stark County School District said the following:
"An administrator for Stark County Schools was advised after work hours on Monday, May 27 that a bus driver and bus aide had placed a five-gallon pail over a student’s head in an inappropriate attempt to address a behavior concern. An investigation was immediately commenced and school representatives were able to confirm the veracity of the allegation. While the child was not seriously injured, the actions of these employees are clearly contrary to policies and standards of Stark County Schools. The employees were suspended on Tuesday, May 28 pending action by the Board of Education to terminate their employment. They will not return to the school. The School also made reports to the Department of Children and Family Services and local law enforcement.The District does not condone the actions of these soon to be former employees and will not tolerate any conduct which harms the well being of our students. The safety and security of our students is the District’s first priority."
"You never expect to have to undress your child everyday and check your child’s body to see if someone is abusing your child," said Keske.
And, while the district has addressed the issue by suspending both the driver and the aide on that bus, and calling them "soon-to-be former employees" in the statement, Keske still has questions.
"Why nothing was said? Why was there no referral? Why didn’t any other the other kids mention anything? I don’t understand how this is allowed to happen."
She hopes the aide never has a chance to work with children again.
"That’s not your child. You don’t touch him. If you have a problem with him it is your job and your duty to notify somebody that he is doing something. It is not your job to punish my child," she said.
The Stark County School Board will meet on June 17. At that meeting, they may make a decision to fire the suspended school district employees involved.