Video: 64-year-old bus driver taunts, physically abuses autistic second-grader girl on ride to school
Kim Klopson was fired and charged with child abuse over the incident, which began when a little girl playfully blocked another child by putting her leg out in the aisle
In a troubling surveillance video from a bus, a California school bus driver was seen violently dragging an eight-year-old autistic girl, mocking her for crying. The surveillance footage which emerged yesterday captured the alleged abuse of a special-needs second grader at Browns Valley Elementary school by 64-year-old Kim Klopson. The Vacaville Police Department arrested her after reviewing the video.
On February 6, authorities were notified about the incident by the Vacaville Unified School District, who then fired the bus driver.
Klopson was immediately arrested and booked into Solano County Jail on charges of felony child abuse following a week-long investigation. A lawyer representing the young girl's parents released the concerning footage recorded by a camera that was mounted inside the aggressor's bus to the station KGO on Tuesday. The video shows the girl frantically crying and begging Klopson to stop.
The bus driver was dropping off a group of special-needs students at Browns Valley Elementary School. The second-grader allegedly stuck out her leg playfully to block another student from walking down the aisle of the bus, according to a statement from the police.
Klopson is seen threatening the eight-year-old: "And if you stick your feet out again to keep her from moving, you are going to be on the window. Got it?"
As the bus approaches the school, the confrontation between the driver and the student intensifies with the 64-year-old forcibly restricting her in her seating and taunting her for crying while taking away with the second grader's backpack. Keeping the girl from leaving the bus, the elderly driver tells her she’s “misbehaving as always.”
The weeping girl is taunted by Klopson, saying, "How old are you? One, oh no, a baby." The driver is then seen physically manhandling the girl and dragging her across the aisle towards the exit door. "You might think you can get away with this, but not on my bus, now you ready? Let's go," she tells her.
Police said that the child sustained abrasions to her head due to Klopson's rough handling of her.
A school aide was seen standing outside the bus, all the while watching the pair struggle without making any visible attempt to intervene and calm the situation. The 64-year-old is then seen grabbing the girl by her jacket and yanking her to her feet before she throws her back into her seat, telling her she was “acting younger than her baby sister.”
Klopson then stands over the eight-year-old, who is now sitting in the middle of the aisle, and taunts her further: "You wanna crawl, you can crawl."
The bus driver then informed the school aide standing outside that they'll be out in a minute and closed the doors of the vehicle. For the following four minutes, Klopson continued to yank the girl up and down by the lapels of her coat, ripping it off. The girl is heard yelling and crying by a small group of students who had gathered outside, said the family's lawyer.
After she's done with the helpless child, the driver tried to make the second-grader wear the backpack. The girl yells, "I don't like you," to which Klopson replies, "I don't like you." Please stop," the girl begs the old woman. "I don't want to."
Klopson finally opened the doors of the bus and reassured the group of students who had gathered outside: "It’s OK, I didn’t hurt her, guys."
She goes on to tell the child that she will see her after school, saying, "That should be interesting." As of the moment, the 64-year-old has pleaded not guilty to a charge of cruelty to a child by inflicting injury.
Klopson told a KGO reporter that the said footage should not have been made public when he informed her that the video had gone viral. She reiterated to ABC7 that the footage “shouldn’t have been [released],” adding: “They’ll make a great big deal about that.”
Upon seeing the surveillance video, the school district fired Klopson the same day. In a released statement, they said, “Please know that we take this matter very seriously and will continue to be forthcoming and collaborative with our families.”
In a conversation with the Huffington Post, the family's lawyer, Micha Star Liberty, said that the incident has resulted in the young girl facing mental and emotional trauma, calling the incident "absolutely bone-chilling."
She told KOVR: "What you’re seeing is horrific mistreatment and abuse by an adult bus driver."
A spokesman for the school district, however, maintained that they had followed due procedure, saying: "Every bus driver has an annual evaluation that includes a ride along with a supervisor. Klopson had hundreds of hours of professional development training… including special education training."
Back in February, when Klopson was detained, VUSD Superintendent Jane Shamieh commented: "There are no words to explain why anyone would mistreat a child in that way. No child should ever experience something like that, especially at school."
The girl's parents are now planning to file a civil lawsuit against the school district for Klopson's treatment of her. Klopson is due back in court in July.
Any crimes against children in Vacaville, California can be reported on +1 707-449-5200 (Vacaville PD)