A PBC school bus aide hit an autistic student; now she may be fired

File photo (Meghan McCarthy/The Palm Beach Daily News)

File photo (Meghan McCarthy/The Palm Beach Daily News)

A Palm Beach County school bus attendant is in line to be fired after officials discovered she punched a harness-bound autistic student who was being unruly.

Officials say the attendant, Bobbie Alexander, 60, struck the 18-year-old disabled student three or four times on a bus after he hit her with a bag of cereal and reached toward another student in October 2015.

The teen was a student at the Royal Palm School, a public school west of Lantana for students with severe mental or physical disabilities. He was in a harness at the time of the incident, records show.

After the bus driver reported the incident, the school district moved to fire Alexander last spring.

But Alexander, a school district employee since 2001, appealed the decision. A state administrative law judge reviewed the case and recommended last month that she be fired.

The county school board is expected to vote on the firing recommendation on Wednesday. [UPDATE: A vote on Alexander’s proposed termination was pulled from Wednesday’s agenda.]

During the investigation, Alexander claimed that her blow to the student had been “just a tap.”

But the administrative judge, Lisa Shearer Nelson, wrote that Alexander hit the student “so forcefully that the sound of the impact could be heard clearly on the bus surveillance tapes.”

It was not the first time she had struck a student, the judge found.

During the investigation, the school district presented evidence that, about a week earlier, Alexander had slapped another student in a wheelchair after that child pushed her away.

In a hearing, Alexander explained the slap as “just the way I interact with him.”

The judge concluded her review by recommending that Alexander be fired.

“A bus attendant is placed on the bus with special-needs students to insure that these students come to no harm,” the judge wrote.

“Under no circumstances can the school board allow a bus attendant who strikes out at a student, whether as a reflex or not, to remain employed in a setting where constant interaction with students is required.”

An acquaintance of Alexander who answered the phone at her home Friday said that she declined to comment.

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