Quick Hits – There’s more to the Burlington bus story!

Just as we thought there’d be. Though stranger things have happened, for someone who served the Burlington Fire Protection District as a firefighter/paramedic with distinction for 35 years to suddenly haul off and slug a special needs second grader was a little hard to fathom.

And as it turns out, that’s not exactly what happened. By the end of this piece, you’ll see that virtually all the evidence indicates the responsibility for this unfortunate incident falls squarely at the feet of D301 School District administrators and particularly Superintendent Todd Stirn.

The parents of this child share some culpability as well.

In fact, the only one who’s truly innocent in all of this is the child whom I’ve learned sits well out on the autism spectrum. Some Facebook folks have done their damndest to paint him as a “juvenile delinquent,” but that’s patently unfair. It’s difficult enough for “normal” children to deal with this increasingly bizarre existence and those with special needs find it particularly tough.D301

And speaking of Facebook! Yes! I’ve seen all of the social media accounts, conspiracy theories, and bizarre twists on this sad story and they have been summarily dismissed. Put more simply, as is always the case, I rely on well-placed sources for these stories and not the rabble.

And the story starts with the reality that some special needs children lash out when the world overwhelms them. But we don’t put the onus on an 8-year-old to somehow suddenly improve, we correctly place the responsibility to effectively adapt to a difficult situation on the parents and other associated adults.

This particular child has difficulty with getting on and off the small school bus. He tends to be fine once he’s seated, but the morning ritual generally consists of the mother picking up her son, thrusting him onto the first bus step, and shouting at the bus driver to close the door.

The problem with this being thrown-into-the-deep-end methodology is, sometimes this 80- to 90-pound second grader physically takes out his frustration on the typically female bus driver, who has to endure it until the aide can wrestle him away.

And that’s pretty much what happened on October 2nd. The child refused to move from that first step and then he threw himself on the floor. When the aide went to pick him up, contain his arms, and take him to his seat, he bit her on the arm and that’s when his already loose teeth fell out.

Not only will the bus video show this to be the case, but there’s an earlier video in which the driver admonishes the boy not to play with his loose teeth because she doesn’t want blood all over him and the bus. I’ve FOIA’d them both among many other things.

Whether the aide, Jean Miklevits, hit the child after getting him to his seat remains to be seen. But my sources tell me that video will exonerate her.

If this version of events is the truth, and I have no reason to believe it isn’t, then why was Miklevitz fired? My sources said, for fear of losing her job, the bus driver told district administrators exactly what she thought they wanted to hear. That’s why the papers reported that the aide dragged the child to his seat, and assaulted him, knocking out two teeth.

It was only in an effort to cover their own not-nearly-innocent collective behinds, that Superintendent Stirn and District administrators went along with the more expedient scapegoating story. But they must’ve figured out the truth somewhere along the line, because I could not for the life of me figure out why they fired the bus driver, too! Now I think we know.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that this child has already gone through as many as four bus drivers, but regardless of the reason, no one should have to show up for work with the expectation of being assaulted.

To the parents’ vast credit, they tried to enroll their son in private schools more capable of handling special needs students, but he was asked to leave because they weren’t equipped to handle violent students.

To D301’s vast credit, they asked the parents to agree to placing their son in a harness before he gets on the bus. That would’ve greatly mitigated the ongoing problem, but the parents refused to do so, and that decision might take just the teeth out of their likely impending lawsuit.

For argument’s sake, let’s say the news story stands. Let’s say the aide actually did drag the child down the aisle and then she hit him with enough force to knock out two teeth. D301 should never have let it go this far.

The second the parents refused to consider the harness solution, Dr. Stirn and the District should’ve protected their employees by putting an end to this, even if it meant taking legal action against the parents. C’mon! The beyond simple solution is for these parents to drive their son to school.

School districts are not and cannot be responsible for raising children, much less dealing with children who are a threat to others. But because the District refused to act, the aide now faces aggravated felony battery charges, and there’s a school bus driver who will never drive a yellow bus again.

And D301’s guilty conscience became abundantly apparent when, just two scant days after the event, they hired Crisis Prevention Institute to provide training on how to deescalate a situation before it becomes physical.

As a brief aside, I was a consultant for CPI in the 90’s and it is a very worthwhile program.

What baffles me, but probably shouldn’t, is how the Kane County State’s Attorney’s rushed to join the lynch mob. If I can come up with these details, a felony prosecutor should certainly have no problem doing the same.

Any reasonable defense attorney will tear the bus driver’s testimony apart in court and D301’s insistence on putting their employees in harm’s way will be a major mitigating factor in any trial. Aggravated felony charges? No jury is ever going to buy it!

To be clear, I delayed this column to provide numerous opportunities for Dr. Stirn to respond with his side of the story, but he failed to do so – even to simply say he can’t discuss the matter because of a possible pending lawsuit.

And that silence says it all, doesn’t it?

 

22 thoughts on “Quick Hits – There’s more to the Burlington bus story!

  1. Thank you! That’s all for now. I just had a feeling something wasn’t right.

    • Me too! I’ve found that journalism is a lot like a Columbo episode, there has to be a thread of logic that runs through a story for it to make sense.

    • That is why I DON’T drive a School Bus ANYMORE. Because instead of backing up the employees the schools away go with it must have been the Bus Driver or it must have been the aide. Also the parents are not very understanding in situations like these. I’ve been there. I was a DRIVER for 20 years. It’s a wonder I e er survived. I could write a book about it

  2. How very sad that the news media rushes to print the story before ALL the facts are known! Our society today can’t wait for the truth no matter what the circumstances are! Hopefully those involved will be able to rise above the nontruth for the sake of this child!

    • Barb,

      The problem isn’t with the news media – sort of – it lies with the police and the State’s Attorney’s Office who utterly failed to investigate the crime.

      So short-staffed newspapers simply printed what was in the police report with a few comments from the D301 and the Fire Protection District.

      In the end, it’s not good journalism, but it’s not unethical either.

    • May have worked for fox news

  3. This is beyond nuts??

    Jeff,
    Thanks for pointing out a very important point. “No one should have to go to work having the expectation of getting assaulted.”

    I believe you have addressed numerous issues around Kane County about employees, from various organizations (government or private), getting assaulted (violent or sexual) and the KCSA does nothing.

    They seem to be about going after the people that work at these places or scaring them off to keep the status quo. It seems that many in the lead positions should have their law licenses under review or stripped for his or her conduct in the KCSO.

  4. The parent should have been obligated to walk the child into the bus and back to a seat
    If that was not done then no bus service for child
    To place a special needs child on the first step of a bus then yell to shut door places everyone in harms way and boarders on, if not abuse, certainly endangerment

  5. Thank you for finally giving the other side of the story.
    The previous journalistic efforts were intolerably one-sided. And Sensationalistic…

  6. Grateful for this read. It’s so hard to see such a wonderful person’s reputation be slain. Also hard to stomach reading people make violence/death threats towards this person. Justice is justice and by no means will she be able to put together all of the pieces that have been damaged in her life but I’m hopeful it will be shown to those who aren’t just hell bent on her being wrong and ya that are so very confused that she is in fact innocent.

    • Parenting a special needs child is like running up a muddy hill in skis. You try your hardest to get up that hill, resorting to just about anything that will get you further ahead without harm. Don’t judge until you have been in those parents’ shoes, and even then, leave a lot of room.

      As for the school district and news media, they reacted far too quickly.

      • AyVee,

        Trust me, I know! My older son sits well out on the spectrum, and though I love him with all of my heart, there is no part of raising him that’s been easy.

        And some of the worst shit was schools completely ignoring his IEP. I don’t miss those days.

      • How is it that we are flooded with sensationalized misinformation in the paper, the nightly news, Facebook and everywhere else and someone who has done significantly more investigation and questioning of the strangeness of the story has only 15 comments? This is what’s wrong with how we get our information- the rush to judgement that doesn’t have even most of the story, and that ruins the reputation of a true community hero is rewarded with “likes” and comments and opinions while the real story sits unknown to most- I hope when the aide and bus driver are exonerated, there is the same amount of press as the amount that has condemned them-

  7. PARENTS- take the child to school or harness him- OR get him into his special class. I taught 37 years- patents must be held accountable. Let’s have the superintendent and other administrators ride the bus and take on the action. Until they know what happens they really really don’t know and must be held accountable. I am so ashamed of educators that act this way.

  8. I was concerned in reading your post and think you’re creating your own “lynch mob” with the factually incorrect information you wrote. I personally don’t know all the facts, but I’m also 100% certain that you don’t either. You present your hear-say evidence as if it’s more factually correct than the rest of the information that has trickled down.

    “as is always the case, I rely on well-placed sources for these stories and not the rabble.” What’s to say your sources aren’t biased in the information they are presenting to you? Especially since it seems pretty clear to me that the school district and parents are the ones you are blaming while the bus aid is just an innocent bystander who happened to be at the wrong place/wrong time. She is an aid for a special needs child with behavioral challenges, she should be trained in de-escalation tactics and physical restraint IF NECESSARY.

    Now let me ask you this- if a special needs child is having an emotional breakdown, what is the best thing we can do for him in that moment? Does anyone think it’s a good idea to physically restrain/move him? (and remember there was no danger to himself or others while this is all going on, he’s just refusing to board the bus) And I’m sure he felt attacked when someone suddenly grabbed him. As you said- “the reality that some special needs children lash out when the world overwhelms them”. We have to do a better job at meeting children like him at his level.

    It also concerns me that you think “school districts are not and cannot be responsible for raising children, much less dealing with children who are a threat to others” I have a feeling that most children spend more time at school than at home with parents. That is enough for me to believe school plays a significant role in raising our children. And if not the school district, then who do you think is responsible for seeing to it that a child gets a quality education with the PROPER SUPPORTS? I think that’s exactly what a school district should do and if they can’t provide the support, then they should be a resource in finding placement where the child has the best opportunity to thrive.

    I’m not claiming that my opinions are correct or that I know who’s at fault here. But I do know that the ball was clearly dropped on many ends, and I hope you do not continue to perpetuate those mistakes by presenting more biased information.

    • Teach,

      I’m glad you’re not claiming your opinions are correct, because there is absolutely nothing correct about what you wrote.

      You don’t understand sources, you don’t nearly begin to understand journalism, my evidence is far from hearsay, you don’t understand how school districts deal with special needs children, parents are the only ones responsible for raising their children, and unless you’re bleepin’ autistic, you cannot even begin to fathom what “meeting a child on his level” means.

      And while I have all sorts of evidence and I will shortly have more, all you have is your flapping gums. You’re more than welcome to post your opinion, but yikes! You’re not nearly as smart as you think you are.

      • Thank you for your diligent reporting!!! I wish I had not seen this story so brutally misunderstood and misrepresented on the evening news, complete with mug shot. A harsh way for some of us who know the truly good nature of a beautiful person, to hear about a particularly bad situation. The uncalled for scapegoating, should be addressed. May this all be put toward advancing a better understanding of how to move forward on every level. As far as Your comment to “teach”… right on the money!

    • If the ball was dropped on so many ends, why is this lady getting the brunt of the issue? i.e. Felony charges and now this poor lady will most likely be broke after this BS.

      These charges should be dropped and a resolution should be made. Using the courts to go after this lady is absurd. Wen will we see the correct action happen and I doubt if McMahon will be the one doing it.

  9. My friend Lori and I worked with Jean at Sherman Hospital years ago and we couldn’t believe that incident could have involved Jean. We knew that there had to be much more to that story than met the eye. We both thought a lot of her. She is too nice a person. I’m glad that we got to hear how things really happened and all the people who are supporting her.

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