The Metro Nashville Board of Education voted Tuesday to approve a $1.2 million settlement, resolving a well-documented federal lawsuit that stemmed from a sexual assault on a special education school bus.
In the incident three years ago, a 19-year-old student allegedly coerced an autistic 9-year-old boy to perform inappropriate actions during an unmonitored bus ride.
The boy’s mother said, at the time of the May 2007 incident, that she had requested a monitor for her son but had “gotten the runaround” from the district. In 2007, Metro had bus monitors on only 35 of its 217 special education buses.
A lawsuit filed by the boy’s mother against Metro Nashville Public Schools eventually made its away to U.S. District Court.
Metro Law Director Sue Cain sent a memo Monday to school board members advising them the settlement is “in the best interests of the school system.”
“At the time, monitors were not on all special education buses and there was not a monitor on the bus involved in the lawsuit,” Cain wrote. “Given the past actions of the 19-year-old student, the Department of Law has recommended a settlement as it is the Department of Law’s opinion that a jury is likely to apportion a significant amount of the damages to the Board of Education.”
The incident with the 9-year-old and a separate incident in October 2006 that involved an 11-year-old girl put a harsh media spotlight on the district.
In the 2006 incident that was captured on an on-board bus camera, an 11-year-old autistic girl suffered “prolonged sexual battery by a fellow special needs student while riding home from school on the school bus,” according to a lawsuit filed by her father.
Mayor Karl Dean took the incidents seriously, and in early 2008 requested MNPS develop a special education student safety plan.
Today, MNPS policy requires monitors to be stationed on every school bus.