Bus Assistant Accused Of Abusing Autistic Student - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Bus Assistant Accused Of Abusing Autistic Student

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PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) -A Pasco County School bus assistant is on paid leave following his arrest for child abuse.

James Robert Lambert, 57, is accused of striking a 10-year-old autistic boy several times on the bus last week.

The boy's mother, Lori Lamb, got a call from a friend the last day of school about her son.

That friend asked if he was okay, and told Lori to check him for bruises and scratches.

Sure enough, Lori said, there were several marks on his arms and the back of his neck.

"I asked Jeffrey what happened and he said 'Mr. Jim hit me,'" Lamb explained.

Pasco County School officials released surveillance video from one of three cameras on board the special needs bus.

"I'm disgusted. I'm sickened. I cannot believe someone that works with children would act that way. It's just inexcusable," Linda Cobb, Pasco school spokesperson, said.

"This is an isolated incident," she added.

Lamb viewed that video for the first time Sunday.

"It was the most disturbing video," she said. "It was frightening. I couldn't believe my eyes. It was disgusting. I mean this man had an open hand and was slapping him around like he was a rag doll."

The video shows what looks like a standard bus ride. There are several loud outbursts, the school district said, from the autistic child.

Cobb said the child was cussing repeatedly.

"If I have to come back there, you're going to get it," a man identified as James Lambert said.

Then the video shows a man walk back to the boy and strike him several times.

Lamb's daughter, Lori Phelan, said her brother tried defending himself.

"You can hear Jeffrey scream, 'Stop don't do that. Don't hit me," Phelan explained.

The boy's mom contacted district transportation about the incident. It pulled the tape and eventually turned it over to law enforcement.

Lambert was arrested Friday.

Lamb said she and other parents have complained to the school district about Lambert before.

"This is the point when we start asking questions," Cobb said.

The school district has no prior disciplinary issues during Lambert's 16-year career as a bus assistant. Lambert has years of experience working with special needs kids, according to Cobb, but she says "If it happened one time, we have to look to see if it's happened before."

There may be some challenges digging into the bus assistant's past.

Cobb explained the surveillance on some busses is recorded on low quality VHS tapes, and those tapes are often recorded over with other footage.

"It there were previous incidents with low quality video, there's a chance that we don't have it anymore," she said.

The boy's mother simply wants Lambert fired and never allowed near kids again.

"It was heart-wrenching because there was nothing I could do because he was by himself on the bus," she said.

Since the incident, Lamb said her son has had nightmares about the incident, and she's thinking about homeschooling him from now on.

The school district has offered to help the family in any way.

Lamb thinks the bus driver should have stopped the bus and should be held responsible as well.

Cobb touched on those remarks and said, "The driver has a responsibility to not only keep an eye on the road, but what's going on behind them in the bus."

Lambert was scheduled to work summer school but that’s since changed.

His employment will likely be discussed at the next school board meeting on June 17th.

Suspension and termination are possible.

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