Don't Hit Autistic Kids With Fly Swatters

The parents of a severely autistic 11-year-old boy in Virginia are suing their local school board and two former school employees for $20 million for negligence and abuse. Their strongest piece of evidence: disturbing school bus surveillance footage of an alleged attack on the boy.

Thomas Kilpatrick claims that for months the Bedford County School Board failed to stop a pattern of abuse of his son, Timothy—resulting in both physical injuries and emotional harm. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Kilpatrick obtained this surveillance footage of a September 2009 school bus ride in which Timothy is kicked, hit with a fly swatter, and restrained; he was also supposedly sprayed with "an aerosol chemical." The bus was en route to a special needs school. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that bus driver, Alice Davis Holland, and a special education school aide, Mary Alice Evans, were convicted of misdemeanor assault in November 2009, and did short stints in jail. (Neither Holland nor Evans works for the school district anymore.)

The Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy—a state agency that advocates for disabled people's rights—has joined the Kilpatrick suit, which claims negligence as well as violations of the Virginians with Disabilities Act. Kilpatrick's lawyer told the Times-Dispatch that the suit "is about the expectations that every parent should have regarding the treatment and safety of their children in our schools"—which becomes even more of an issue for parents of autistic children, who seem particularly vulnerable to weird, extreme forms of abuse.

Something we fail to understand: why people who lack the patience to work with special needs kids go into the field in the first place. It can't be to make big money. Why not try to get on a reality show, or go into the martial arts. Also seems pretty stupid to go to town on a kid while a surveillance camera's rolling—though a lot of people probably assume that no one will check the tapes in time for any damning footage to be retrieved. In this case earlier video footage couldn't be found.

[Times Dispatch, WSLS]