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Mother describes seeing bus video of daughter with special needs being 'pinned down' by staff

Posted at 5:10 PM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 20:53:52-05

DENVER — The Denver mother who says her special needs daughter was pinned down on the bus by a school official says she has now seen the on-bus video of the incident.

“It’s sickening,” Krisin Stark said.

In a statement late last week, Denver Public Schools said a transportation employee used “physical restraint” on the student after failed attempts to de-escalate a situation, but that student’s mom says otherwise.

Stark described seeing the video — which Denver Public Schools is not releasing — with school officials on Monday, saying it shows the bus driver and aide escalating the situation by yelling at the girl and calling police, followed by a transportation employee arriving and using physical force.

“He does place her on her belly face down on the ground and put her hands behind her back,” Stark said, speaking about her 6-year-old daughter. “And I don’t know how long they held her there because I couldn’t watch anymore of it after that.”

Stark said her daughter, Cecilia, has PTSD and oppositional defiant disorder, which is a behavior disorder condition. Cecilia attends College View Elementary School. She admitted that her daughter would not sit still and did not take instructions, due to the fact that she was frightened. But she does not believe that behavior rose to the level of using any kind of physical force.

“Nothing I saw warranted that,” she said.

The school district released the following statement last Thursday:

“We’re grateful to the parent for raising this concern so that it can be addressed immediately. DPS staff have reviewed the video. During the bus ride home, when the staff were unable to get the student back into a safety vest, the driver called 911 for assistance. While waiting, support arrived from the transportation department. There were no other students on the bus at this time. After efforts to deescalate the behavior of the student were unsuccessful, the transportation employee used a physical restraint with the student. We are turning the DPS bus video over to Denver Police Department for further investigation regarding the actions taken by the transportation employee. We take the safety of our students and staff very seriously. We will be providing supports to the student, family and DPS staff involved.”

DPS did not have any additional comment on Monday, the day that Stark watched the video with school officials.

Stark said the district has made alternate arrangements to get her daughter to and from school, but she wants more done, including discipline for the bus driver and aide. She also plans on meeting with Denver Police and pushing for criminal charges against that transportation employee. Legal action is also potentially on the table.

“I think they could have easily diffused whatever situation was arising with her just by addressing her feelings, acknowledging her feelings and handling it the way a professional should,” Stark said in an interview on Thursday.