clear
Sunday November 19th, 2017 9:11PM
8:34AM ( 12 hours ago ) Weather Alert

Colorado bus aide sentenced for assaulting autistic student

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Over six days, Shiva Rai was kicked and hit, sprayed in the face with aerosol disinfectant, berated and told he was disgusting by an aide on a bus serving a Colorado school for autistic students.

On Friday, the aide, 52-year-old Monica Burke, was sentenced to 20 months in jail and five years' probation after she pleaded guilty in July to assaulting an at-risk person. She also was ordered to perform 360 hours of community service.

The punishment came after Rai's family reached a $3.85 million settlement from the St. Vrain Valley School District, which had employed Burke, family attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai said.

District Judge Ingrid Bakke sentenced Burke after hearing emotional statements from Rai's family and Burke, and the playing of excerpts of a school bus videotape showing Burke kicking a defenseless Rai and spraying him with the disinfectant.

Courtroom spectators gasped and one uttered "my God" as the excerpts were shown.

"You spray something toxic at something you want to kill," Rai's father, Vhim Rai, told the judge. "We pray and ask that no other at-risk person has to go through what we went through."

Burke's sentencing capped a case that exposed the vulnerabilities of those who are unable to report abuse — and are thus acutely at risk.

The case drew the attention of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, which reached a compliance agreement with the school district that includes proper hiring and training of staff, ensuring bus camera footage is preserved for at least six months, and other conditions.

About one in 68 school-aged children have autism or related disorders, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in March. The effects can range from mild social interaction problems to repetitive behaviors and the inability to speak.

Shiva Rai — the 21-year-old son of a Nepalese-American family in Longmont — cannot communicate verbally and is extremely sensitive to sound.

The school district bused him daily to Firefly Autism, a nonprofit school in Denver. It was during those 50-mile (80-kilometer) trips that the abuse occurred — documented on video over six days in August 2016.

An alert teacher reported that he thought he saw Burke screaming at Rai during a bus stop and that "Shiva was raising his hands to protect himself," according to an arrest affidavit by Longmont police Detective Mark Cooper.

Authorities examined the video before charging Burke and the bus driver, William E. Hall Jr., who has pleaded not guilty to failing to report the assaults. The arrest affidavit noted that Burke had been on the job for several months.

"The circumstances surrounding Shiva's abuse provide a somber reminder of the capacity of some to commit acts of cruelty against the most innocent and vulnerable members of our community," Mohamedbhai said.

Burke's attorney, Tanner Spracklen, said Burke had suffered severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder for years after she was raped as a teenager. He said Burke received little to no training for assisting autistic and other special-needs students.

Burke told the judge that she had been suffering "pent-up rage and unresolved issues in my life, and unfortunately Shiva was the target."

Matthew Wiggins, a spokesman for the school district, issued a statement condemning Burke's behavior and saying the settlement would help provide for Shiva Rai's future needs.

___

James Anderson can be reached on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jandersonap

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Health, AP Health - Children's Health
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
The Latest: Harvey strengthens to Category 3 storm
The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Harvey has strengthened to a Category 3 storm
3:30PM ( 5 minutes ago )
Colorado bus aide sentenced for assaulting autistic student
A former Colorado school bus aide who pleaded guilty to assaulting an autistic student on his way to and from school was sentenced to 20 months in jail
3:29PM ( 6 minutes ago )
US, Canada to investigate deaths of endangered whales
Federal officials plan to provide more details on their investigation into the recent deaths of several endangered North Atlantic right whales
3:22PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
San Francisco to greet 'Patriot Prayer' with unique protests
Amid worries about violence at rallies in San Francisco, some people plan to welcome political opponents with unusual protests: a field of dog poop and an inflatable chicken with the hairstyle of the president
3:01PM ( 34 minutes ago )
The Latest: Evacuations underway in Louisiana
Officials in Vermilion Parish on Louisiana's coast have called for a voluntary evacuation as Hurricane Harvey heads for landfall in nearby Texas
2:44PM ( 51 minutes ago )
The Latest: Abbott says Harvey going to be 'major disaster'
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is warning people that Hurricane Harvey "is going to be a very major disaster
2:37PM ( 58 minutes ago )
AP National News
Study: Arsenic poisoning a risk for 50M in Pakistan
A new study suggests some 50 million Pakistanis could be at risk of drinking arsenic-tainted groundwater
10:05PM ( 1 day ago )
AP-NORC poll: Hispanics see barriers to nursing care
AP-NORC poll: Few older Hispanics are confident that nursing homes and assisted living facilities can meet their needs.
7:17PM ( 2 days ago )
Critics: Remove statue of doctor who experimented on slaves
Critics want New York City to remove a statue in Central Park that honors a 19th century doctor who used slaves in developing a pioneering approach to treating physical problems women can develop after childbirth
2:16PM ( 3 days ago )
AP Health
FDA OKs Pfizer drug for rare, fast-killing type of leukemia
FDA approves new medicine for use against a rare, rapidly progressing blood cancer after other treatments have failed
5:35PM ( 1 week ago )
35 children die in north Indian hospital in 3 days
Parents of at least 35 children who have died in a state-run hospital in northern India over the past three days have alleged that the fatalities were due to the lack of a sufficient oxygen supply in the children's ward
12:44PM ( 1 week ago )
High schooler dies when log falls on him in football drill
A suburban New York high school football player lifting a large log with teammates as part of a Navy SEALs-style drill has been hit in the head by the log and killed, raising questions about adapting such military training to young athletes
8:33PM ( 2 weeks ago )
AP Health - Children's Health
The Latest: Harvey strengthens to Category 3 storm
The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Harvey has strengthened to a Category 3 storm
3:30PM ( 5 minutes ago )
US, Canada to investigate deaths of endangered whales
Federal officials plan to provide more details on their investigation into the recent deaths of several endangered North Atlantic right whales
3:22PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Yellen defends bank regulations passed after 2008 crisis
Federal Reserve Chair Yellen defends banking overhaul passed after devastating 2008 crisis
3:21PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Q&A: Samsung chief is jailed. Here's what you need to know.
Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong, the de facto leader of South Korea's most successful business group, was sentenced Friday to five years prison for offering bribes and other crimes
3:14PM ( 21 minutes ago )
VW engineer gets prison, $200,000 fine in diesel scandal
A Volkswagen engineer who had a key role in the company's diesel emissions scandal has been sentenced to more than three years in prison and fined $200,000
3:14PM ( 21 minutes ago )