Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Florida - Aide charged with abusing autistic boy

By ANDREW GANT, Staff Writer
December 4, 2010


Florida - A 72-year-old school bus attendant was arrested Friday on charges she grabbed at an autistic boy's limbs, slapped him and threatened to break his wrists if he didn't behave on the bus, police said.

Marilyn Talford Onie was charged with child abuse after Edgewater police watched the incident on school-bus video, according to her arrest report.
Onie -- who was sitting in a seat at the front of the bus, across the aisle from a 14-year-old student with autism -- began yelling at him during a Nov. 8 bus ride home from New Smyrna Beach High School, police said.

Investigators said the boy does not speak and only understands some of what is said to him.

When he began to bite at his arm and reached out to touch Onie with his finger, police said, she grabbed his wrists and squeezed them, then pointed her finger in the boy's face. When he reached out again, she grabbed his fingers and squeezed those, too, according to the report.

When the boy tried to touch another child leaving the bus, Onie yelled, "You're gonna get it, buddy," police said. She grabbed his wrists again, bent them downward and asked, "Want me to break them on ya?" according to the report.

"You like that?" she asked later as she pressed on his wrists, "causing the child to lunge his body forward toward Onie's face," police said.

The boy's mother later told investigators her son likely was agitated because a new driver was taking the bus on an unfamiliar route.

Onie also grabbed the boy by the back of the neck, slapped him on the shoulder and pushed his head against the bus window as he tried to touch her with his finger.

"We are not bringing you to school anymore. You're a bad boy," police quoted her as saying.

Onie could not be reached for comment Friday, but in a Wednesday interview with police, she said she "had been having problems with (the boy) for several months but never reported any incidents to anyone."

After watching and listening to the school-bus video, she said her comment about breaking the boy's hands was "said out of frustration."

"Mrs. Onie stated that she has seen the video tape and has no other explanation for her actions other than she is 'only human,' " police wrote.

A fellow student who uses a wheelchair opened the investigation by telling her mother about what she saw. She told investigators she felt Onie was "very mean" and "showed no mercy or sympathy" for the boy, according to the report.

Onie was not fired or suspended, but she was reassigned to duties away from children -- cleaning the buses, for example -- after the Nov. 8 incident, school district spokeswoman Nancy Wait said.

The district won't investigate and will wait for Onie's case to be resolved before taking any further action in her employment, Wait said.

Onie works 6.5 hours per day -- considered full-time by the district -- at $11.73 per hour.

She posted $1,000 bail and was released from the Volusia County Branch Jail on Friday.