When a 7-year-old autistic boy came home with a letter explaining that he was suspended from the school bus, his mother knew something wasn’t right. It was only after another child came forward that the mother discovered what the bus driver did with his “scream bucket.”
There is always a legitimate concern when parents send their young children off to the school bus each morning. Of course, the worry is even greater for the parents of children with disabilities. So, when Barbara Keske received a note from the school bus driver saying that her autistic child had been suspended for violent behavior, she knew that something just wasn’t right.
When 7-year-old Steven Keske arrived home from his Stark County elementary school, he handed his mother a note, which stated that he was suspended from riding the school bus because he had hit the female aide. Knowing that her son was autistic but not aggressive, Barbara felt that things just didn’t add up, so she decided to dig a little deeper.
While questioning Steven, he admitted to hitting the aide by accident because he had been panicking. A few days later, another student who rides the same bus confirmed that Steven only accidentally struck the aide because he was trying to get the “bucket” off his head. It was then that the concerned mother’s worst fears became reality.
According to WQAD, the Illinois school bus aide and driver placed a 5-gal bucket over the terrified autistic boy’s head because he was having a meltdown. Another child confirmed that the adults would force “the screaming bucket” over Steven’s head whenever he was having a fit. The child admitted that the bucket was made especially for Steven.
“He goes, ‘Yeah, Steven hit the bus aide because he was trying to get the bucket off his head,'” said Keske. “He went on to explain to me how she put it on his head. That it was called a ‘screaming bucket.'”
County ENews revealed that the driver of the bus was Al Curry, a part-time bus driver and current chair of the Stark County Board of Supervisors, and the aide is Cathy Webster, both of whom are from Toulon. Apparently, the pair would physically abuse Steven whenever he had behavioral issues. Fortunately, the pair were suspended from their jobs on the bus after the district confirmed the allegations.
“An investigation was immediately commenced and school representatives were able to confirm the veracity of the allegation,” the district said. “While the child was not seriously injured, the actions of these employees are clearly contrary to policies and standards of Stark County Schools. The employees were suspended on Tuesday, May 28, pending action by the Board of Education to terminate their employment. They will not return to the school.”
However, Barbara feels that her son wasn’t granted justice with the pair merely being suspended. She explained that Steven has suffered emotional trauma for months and physical bruising from what her son’s doctor confirmed was “assault.” In fact, Barbara wants to see Curry and Webster charged with assault and jailed.
“You assaulted my son. You violated my son,” she wrote on Facebook. “YOU LIED TO COVER UP ABUSE! JUSTICE IS NEEDED! DID IT MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD HITTING A SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD.”
Understandably, Barbara Keske is still livid over her son’s abuse. She cannot fathom how anyone would think that placing a child’s head in a dark drum would be considered an acceptable disciplinary action.
“I am in disbelief that an adult, especially someone that works for the school, would think that it’s okay to put her hands on my child, yet along a bucket on my son’s head,” she said. “You never expect to have to undress your child everyday and check your child’s body to see if someone is abusing your child.”
The school has since fired Curry and Webster, assuring parents that they will never again be employed by the district. The school also filed reports with the Department of Children and Family Services as well as local law enforcement. It is unclear whether charges will be brought against the pair.
Disturbingly, Toulon Police Cheif Gary Bent doesn’t appear to think that Curry or Webster will be criminally charged. In fact, after reviewing the report, he explained that there didn’t seem to be any “intent” to harm Steven, calling the incidents “a safety issue.”
“At this point, right now, I don’t see any criminal intention,” Bent said. “I do not believe that (Curry’s) intent was to harm the child. He was trying to address a safety issue.”
A special needs child was abused because a couple of adults were annoyed with his autistic outbursts, which is a major fear for any parents of a disabled child. Hopefully, this mother will receive justice for her son.