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Judge awards $1M to Baltimore City parent for alleged abuse of autistic daughter on bus

A Baltimore circuit court judge has awarded the mother of a city public school student more than $1 million in case that alleged abuse of her daughter on a bus in 2012.

The judgment was levied against Barber Transportation Inc., which owned and operated the bus that transported the then-9-year-old student who was attending a summer program at Armistead Garden Elementary, according to court documents.

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The mother alleged the child, who is autistic, was traveling home on the bus in July 2012 when she was sexually abused over two days by a 13-year-old boy and a 14-year-old boy.

The girl was in a group of disabled students who were supposed to be transported separately to and from their homes for the summer program. However, students from another school were added to the bus, according to the court documents.

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If city school officials don't act quickly, they risk either going against Gov. Larry Hogan's mandate to have school between Labor Day and June 15 or breaking an agreement with the teachers' union.

The girl became agitated and told the boys not to touch her, but they did not listen, according to court documents.

The bus driver failed to intervene, as did a school bus aide who was on the bus and “reading his newspaper and either not paying attention or was ignoring the disabled students’ seating arrangements and the sexual assaults that were taking place,” according to the court documents.

On March 19, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Wanda Keyes Heard awarded the mother $1 million in punitive damages, $279 for compensatory damages and $50,000 for pain and suffering.

The Baltimore Sun does not identify victims of alleged abuse, and is not identifying the mother to protect the identity of the child.

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Baltimore-based Barber Transportation Inc. owns 80 school buses and has operated in the city since 1991, according to its website.

Barber Transportation did not respond to requests for comment.

With a renewed national focus on school security, The Baltimore Sun Media Group sent more than a dozen reporters to elementary, middle and high schools in the city and surrounding counties Monday to report on whether the systems’ protocols match the reality.

In a statement, a city schools spokesperson said the school system “was dismissed from the lawsuit in 2015 and can offer no comment on its outcome.”

The statement added: “The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority. Any allegation of abuse of a student is deeply concerning and will always be thoroughly investigated.”

The statement also said Barber Transportation is one of several contracted bus companies that provides transportation services to city schools students.

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