“That means they’re protecting him,” Paulino said.
Linda Lewis, a representative with the employee union for Broward’s bus drivers, said the fact that law enforcement blocked out the child’s face — to protect his identity — left her unsure if the boy was really suffering.
“I can’t see it clearly that there’s being any abuse,” Lewis said. The child’s strap “may have been pulled a little too tight or something, I don’t know.”
Blue could not be reached for comment Friday, and a relative reached at a phone number registered to him said the family wouldn’t be commenting. When interviewed by police, Blue said he acted wrongly, and was “too tough” on the child, according to the arrest report.
The choking of a special-needs child is only the latest scandal to hit Broward’s long-troubled schools transportation department. The beginning of the school year was dramatically disrupted by widespread busing problems, including buses not showing up or arriving significantly late. In years past, the department was plagued by allegations of overspending, inefficiency, and rampant nepotism.
School Board member Katherine Leach — a former middle school teacher specializing in autistic students — said she’s “very concerned” about what happened in this case, and she said it’s time to reexamine the training Broward gives its employees when it comes to special-needs students.
Leach also called on Broward administrators to make sure that counseling is made available to the boy.
“Whatever supports that child and this family need, need to be put in place immediately,” Leach said.