NBC 5 Investigates

School Bus Incident Involving Child With Autism Caught On Tape

The incident, which occurred in February 2020, is the subject of a new lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

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Warning: Details in this story may be disturbing to some. Reader discretion is advised.

A troubling episode on a suburban Chicago school bus involving a 9-year-old child with autism is now the subject of a lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

During that incident, captured on the school bus security camera, the child, Aiden Sanchez, appears to first be roughed up, then struck in the head by a bus aide who was there to assist in his transportation.

"We know largely what's on the video, because Aiden can't tell the story himself," said attorney Scott Rauscher, who is representing the family in court.

The bus aide, 79-year-old Curtis Jones, was fired by his employer, Alpha School Bus Company, and faces charges of aggravated battery of a child. Rauscher noted Aiden is largely non-verbal, and that the family only learned the full story of what happened after seeing the video.

"He can't even come home and tell them what happened," Rauscher said. "The whole reason he is on this bus with Curtis Jones is because he needs extra help."

Aiden's mother Milagros Sanchez says when her son got off the bus he was crying uncontrollably and she noticed his ear was red. After seeing that, she said her husband went to police and contacted the school.

"I was angry," Aiden's father, Edward Sanchez said. "I wanted to see the video to see what happened."

Sanchez said he was refused access to the video but that a supervisor at Aiden's school, Springfield Elementary in Midlothian, did see it.

"She was crying while she told me what she saw on the video," he said.

A police report stemming from the incident says Jones told investigators that he had received no formal training on how to deal with children with disabilities, and that he regretted what happened.

"Jones related that the victim was always 'causing problems' on the bus and had to be calmed down frequently," that report said. "Jones admitted that he struck the victim in the face with a closed fist, and that he wasn't thinking at the time he did that."

Contacted at his home by NBC 5, Jones appeared deeply troubled by the incident, which he called "an impulsive thing" that he deeply regretted.

"Every day I think about it," he said. "If they had trained me properly, I don't think I would have hit this kid."

Through their attorney Anthony Benish, Alpha School Bus Company emphasized in a statement that they had dismissed Jones and had cooperated fully with the investigation.

And they insisted he had received appropriate training.

"Prior to Mr. Jones being assigned to a route, he received four days of special needs training," the statement said. "A criminal background check and sex offender search was done, which showed no background that would bar Mr. Jones from becoming a para-professional."

The statement said Jones was recertified every year with annual special needs training and that he had no prior issues.

Aiden Sanchez is now 10 years old. His father said he still suffers from nightmares from the incident.

"I'd seen it happen to other children," he said. "But I never thought it would happen to my own."

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