LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — Charges against a school bus aide who was accused of abusing special-needs students were dropped based on a state law that allows corporal punishment in schools, WFTV reports.
Lake County Sheriff’s Office deputies told the news source that an investigation into James Charles Brunson, 26, began on May 17 when the Department of Children and Families notified them of the allegations against him, after one of the students on his bus came home with a minor injury.
A news release from the Lake County Sheriff’s office stated that bus video from May 15 routes showed Brunson, who worked for Lake County Schools, grabbing students by their faces, twisting their heads and arms, pushing them against the wall of the bus, placing a shoe over one student's mouth, and stretching one boy's leg over his head, ClickOrlando.com reports. Deputies also told the news source that the video showed Brunson pulling on the harnesses of the seats. Brunson was arrested on 32 counts of child abuse on June 25.
However, those charges were dropped because the state’s attorney’s office said that Florida law allows parents and other adults to use corporal punishment, arguing that the four children involved in the incident were "kicking and punching other students,” and "screaming, hitting defendant," so "defendant's behavior arguably falls under the corporal punishment privilege given his role as a bus monitor," according to WFTV. The attorney’s office also said, the news source reports, that the aide’s conduct "does not rise to the level of criminal child abuse."
The school district told the news source that corporal punishment is not allowed in its classrooms or on its buses, that Brunson will never work for the district again, and that it is placing more emphasis on de-escalation and student management when training new bus monitors.