By Ashleigh Costello
NEW YORK – Nearly seven years later, Lisa Rossi may finally get justice for her son after he was tormented by the bus staff on his way to school.
A civil trial began in Brooklyn Wednesday as jurors listened to a 2005 recording in which bus matron Connie Clark screamed “Shut up!” at the seven-year-old boy and complained, “We got a crazy kid here,” reports the New York Post.
PJ Rossi, who is now 14, suffers from severe autism and is unable to speak. Defenseless and distressed, PJ can be heard screaming and hitting his head nearly 80 times against the side of the bus on the recording.
Lisa Rossi, the boy’s mother, was concerned when her son started to come home from school with bumps on his head.
“I put a tape recorder in his backpack so I could find out what was going on,” she said.
What she heard was sickening.
“PJ endured 35 minutes of taunting, of mimicking his crying, of saying ‘You want a cupcake, PJ?’” the family’s lawyer, Thomas McManus, said in his opening statement. “All the while, PJ is bashing his head against the side window of the bus.”
Child endangerment charges were brought against Clark last year after the recording was released and she was fired from her job. The 53-year-old school bus matron accepted a no-jail misdemeanor plea, according to the news site.
It’s unclear whether bus driver Robert Fischetti, who can be heard calling PJ a “knucklehead,” has or will face any disciplinary action.
The Rossis filed the civil suit against the Department of Education and the Atlantic Express bus company, alleging their son’s development was stunted by the incident.
“The matron on the bus was (suppose) to protect him,” the mother told the news site. “That’s why he had a one-to-one bus.”
The attorney for the bus company argues that the employees were never trained to deal with kids with severe disabilities, reports the Daily Mail.
“Connie Clark was trained to get a kid onto a bus and buckle a seatbelt,” Jeffrey Liebowitz, attorney for Atlantic Express, said. “She was not trained what to do when a kid is slamming his head over and over.”
Perhaps they should have been trained. That’s the responsibility of the school and the transportation contractor. Besides, special training is not necessary when it comes to compassion.
As one reader commented on the Daily Mail article, “Since when is being kind a ‘specialized’ care skill’?”
The civil trial is still ongoing.