The mother of a Los Berros Elementary School student with special needs filed a federal lawsuit against the Lompoc Unified School District on Monday, claiming school officials were culpable in an incident in which her son was physically abused on a bus in October 2018.
The lawsuit, filed by Angolene Weighill in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Oct. 28, alleges that the district's inadequate training and hiring practices led to the assault of her autistic son by a former bus attendant on Oct. 16, 2018.
Among her accusations, Weighill alleges discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act; negligent hiring, supervision and retention; negligent infliction of emotional distress; and battery. She is seeking a jury trial, along with unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, plus attorney's fees.
A former Lompoc Unified School District bus attendant pleaded guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor child cruelty and was sentenced to 10 days of jail…
In addition to former bus attendant Arthur Leroy Carlos and the district itself, defendants named in the lawsuit include Los Berros Elementary School Principal Heather Anderson; Cynthia Ravalin, the district’s director of education; Brian Jaramillo, the director of pupil services; Tisha Quam, the district’s special education coordinator; Anthony Merrill Winters, a special needs bus driver for the district; superintendent Trevor McDonald; and John Karbula, assistant superintendent.
Karbula declined to comment on the lawsuit, calling it an "ongoing and confidential legal situation."
According to the lawsuit, Carlos pushed Weighill's 10-year-old son, put his arms around his neck, bruised his arm, and pushed the boy’s head and face against the window of the school bus.
The boy reported the incident to his father, who immediately contacted the district. Weighill claimed the district didn’t report the incident to the police, who were alerted after the father contacted them, according to the lawsuit.
Carlos was criminally charged shortly after the incident and pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of willful cruelty of a child in November 2018. He received a sentence of 10 days in jail, four years of probation, and he was ordered to attend a one-year child abuse program and pay more than $700 in fees, according to records.
Carlos was hired as a bus attendant less than a week before his arrest and was tasked with ensuring the safety and security of children in his vehicle. He was terminated after the incident, according to school officials.
In the lawsuit, Weighill argues that Carlos should not have been hired, claiming a criminal conviction in his record made him unfit for the position. The lawsuit does not give specifics about the prior conviction.
Weighill also characterizes the district's training of its employees as "woefully" inadequate. Carlos allegedly didn't know the district's policy for touching and restraining disabled children, as revealed during questioning by law enforcement, according to the lawsuit. During the interview, Carlos reportedly admitted grabbing and twisting the boy's ear.
As a result of the incident, Weighill said her son has experienced trauma and emotional setbacks and now refuses to ride the bus to school.
Melanie Thatcher, a fifth-grade teacher at Miguelito Elementary School, has been selected as Lompoc Unified School District's "Outstanding New Teacher of the Year," the district announced Friday.
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