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Colorado bus aide sentenced for assaulting student with autism

Over six days, Shiva Rai was kicked and hit, sprayed in the face with aerosol disinfectant, berated and told he was disgusting by an aide on a bus serving a Colorado school for autistic students.

On Friday, the aide, 52-year-old Monica Burke, was sentenced to 20 months in jail and five years’ probation after she pleaded guilty in July to assaulting an at-risk person. She also was ordered to perform 360 hours of community service.

The punishment came after Rai’s family reached a $3.85 million settlement from the St. Vrain Valley School District, which had employed Burke, family attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai said.

District Judge Ingrid Bakke sentenced Burke after hearing emotional statements from Rai’s family and Burke, and the playing of excerpts of a school bus videotape showing Burke kicking a defenseless Rai and spraying him with the disinfectant.

Courtroom spectators gasped and one uttered “my God” as the excerpts were shown.

“You spray something toxic at something you want to kill,” Rai’s father, Vhim Rai, told the judge. “We pray and ask that no other at-risk person has to go through what we went through.”

Burke’s sentencing capped a case that exposed the vulnerabilities of those who are unable to report abuse — and are thus acutely at risk.

The case drew the attention of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which reached a compliance agreement with the school district that includes proper hiring and training of staff, ensuring bus camera footage is preserved for at least six months, and other conditions.

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