“She can’t tell them to stop. She couldn’t get away because she’s in a five-point harness car seat. She just had to sit there and take it, and the bus driver wasn’t stopping,” an upset mother explained after seeing what her young daughter endured on the school bus. And, it’s heartbreaking, to say the least.
Lillian Waldron, a 10-year-old little girl with developmental delays, attends Langlade Elementary School in Green Bay, Wisconsin. To get to and from school, she rides a bus with other students who also have special needs, sitting in a child safety seat with a five-point harness directly behind the bus driver.
One would think such an arrangement would provide the utmost safety for the nonverbal little girl, but her parents found out that sadly wasn’t the case. When Lillian, affectionately called Lilly by her parents, came home on a Monday afternoon, she ran to her mother crying, holding her arm, and was inconsolable. Lilly doesn’t speak. So, her mom didn’t know what was wrong. She would find out, however, when she took off her daughter’s shirt and uncovered a grisly sight.
“She loves baths and that’s soothing to her. So, I brought her home and I was getting her ready for the bath. I took her sweatshirt off, and that’s when I noticed,” recalled Lynn Waldron-Moehle, Lillian’s mother. The disabled child’s tiny upper arms were covered in major bruises, indicating the torture she was forced to endure as her safety seat prevented her from getting away from the abuse.
While sitting right behind the bus driver, Lillian Waldron was repeatedly bitten by another student, unable to tell her tormenter to stop. But, although Lilly can’t speak, she does make sounds when she’s in pain — sounds the bus driver should have heard and investigated. Instead, the driver did nothing to help. That’s why her parents are speaking out.
“The seat was right behind the bus driver and he couldn’t hear anything going on or see anything? Come on,” Chad Waldron, Lillian’s dad, said in disbelief. Making matters worse, the incident was caught on video that’s been described as “gruesome and horrifying.”
According to a representative for Lamers Bus Lines, all Green Bay Area Public Schools buses have video recording devices on them and bus drivers are allowed to step in if an altercation happens. But, that’s seemingly not what happened during the incident involving Lillian Waldron.
The school district said they are investigating the video from the bus, but according to the child’s mother, the principal already watched it, and he was disturbed by what he saw. “He said it was gruesome and horrifying to look at. That the girl was brutally biting my daughter’s arm,” Lynn said.
“Several administrators and myself immediately reached out to the family,” a statement from school district Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld said. “[We] met with them to address their concerns and provide support to ensure the physical and emotional wellbeing of our student.”
Ensuring that wellbeing is as easy as having an adult watch over the kids, according to the Lillian Waldron’s parents. “If you can’t keep an eye on these kids and they are special needs, then you need to bring somebody in, you know, to be watching if the bus driver can’t do it,” Chad said.
“I would like to see this not ever happen to another child. No other child needs to go through what Lilly went through,” Lynn added. So far, the school has made two changes to prevent the incident from happening again. First, the student who bit Lilly is no longer allowed at the elementary school. Secondly, Lilly will ride to and from school in a van with two adults going forward.
But, are these solutions enough? Shouldn’t someone also be held responsible for neglecting their duties, whether that’s the school or the bus driver? Yes, the driver has to watch the road, but he or she also has a responsibility to ensure the safety of all children on the bus.
If this wasn’t possible for any reason, the employee had a duty to let make the school aware that the situation was not safe. If this was an out-of-the-ordinary exception to the usual ride, the driver should have pulled over and addressed the issue as a priority — just like we would expect them to do for a child experiencing a medical emergency.
Instead, the bus driver’s only focus seemed to be on driving. As a child undoubtedly shrieked in pain right behind the person responsible for keeping her safe, her cries were ignored, and the result was so much worse than it had to be. Rather than being bitten once, which is admittedly bad enough, she was bitten again and again until she was covered in bruises that visually represent only a fraction of the intense pain and fear she must have endured.
An aid for the bus sounds like a viable solution, but many complain it would be expensive for taxpayers who fund the district. However, so is a lawsuit when the lack of oversight and supervision leads to a preventable injury or worse. If another child can bite this little girl to this extent without someone intervening, what else could they have done? And, what if it was your child? What price do you put on their safety?