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.
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?