WALLED LAKE (WWJ) – The mother of an autistic student in the Walled Lake school district says her son was assaulted on a school bus — but video of the assault is not being released.
Val McFarlin has a 13-year-old autistic son, Cal. He’s non-verbal and functions like a 3-and-a-half-year-old. He does take a special school bus, run by Dean Transportation, that does have a monitor on the bus. However, while riding the bus home from school Tuesday, Cal was assaulted by another student.
McFarlin says she asked the bus company if she could watch video of what happened, but the company has refused.
“All night long they’ve been telling us, ‘Nope, you can’t see the tape. Nope, you can’t see the tape.’ I just said could you get a hold of the two other parents because I’m sure they would be okay with us seeing the tape since we’re not upset. We just need to make sure Cal is okay.”
McFarlin has safety questions that she believes the video can answer.
“What good is a video if we can’t review it? Especially when there’s a safety issue and someone’s health and well-being is at risk,” she said.
Walled Lake Schools released a statement saying the incident is under investigation, safety is their first priority, and they work with parents to find resolution. No comment yet from Dean Transportation.
When Cal was dropped off after school that day, McFarlin said the bus driver didn’t even mention that her son was involved in an altercation.
“They mentioned that Cal took his shoes off, which kids with Autism go through different behaviors. They never once mentioned that someone had attacked him on the bus,” she said. “So, Cal is screaming as he gets off the bus, which is never the case, and he comes inside. And again, he’s non-verbal so when you’re hearing all these noises and grunts, you’re like ‘What’s going on? Is he okay?’ We get inside and the whole side of his face is all scraped and puffy.”
McFarlin said she called the school and her son’s teacher assured her she saw that Cal got on the bus.
“So then it’s a 10 minute ride to our house. The woman who is supposed to be helping keep the kids safe is texting when we get Cal off the bus, not even eye contact with us or to say hello. So I get a hold of the principal and he tells me in fact Cal was attacked on the bus by another student,” she said. “He has autism. It wasn’t his fault, right? I mean let’s be honest, they don’t know better. That’s why you have an adult there, to make sure everyone’s safe. So these people (Dean Transportation) they hid it. They didn’t just neglect to tell us, they hid it.”
The bus monitor has since been fired, the school told McFarlin. But that’s not enough for this mother.
“Obviously I’m not putting him on the bus tomorrow because my trust is gone. I will keep him home — I actually want to take him to a trauma surgeon because I’m worried about his head,” she said. “And I don’t know that he’ll ever want to get back on a bus again. Because kids with autism, it’s not like you can just say, ‘You’re safe now, go ahead.’ He has now experienced a very traumatic situation, they associate the negative behavior.”
McFarlin said she was told she could review video of the attack on Wednesday afternoon.