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Colorado school bus aide charged with assaulting nonverbal 10-year-old

Editor’s Note: The video above contains graphic content that may disturb some viewers. 

DENVER (KDVR) — A Colorado school bus aide caught on video punching and stomping a nonverbal 10-year-old student last month has been fired and arrested.

Kiarra Monte Laron Jones, 29, a paraprofessional who worked for Littleton Public Schools, has been charged with one felony count of third-degree assault against an at-risk person in connection with the March 18 incident, according to court records.

Jones was seen on the video punching an at-risk student and pushing, hitting and touching him in an unwelcoming way, according to the affidavit.

The child’s mother, Jessica Vestal, spoke at a press conference on Tuesday, demanding accountability from the Littleton school district.

“If I could say one thing to Littleton Public Schools, it would be, ‘How dare you? How dare you fail my son in such an astonishingly preventable way?’” Vestal said.

The law firm Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC announced that it’s representing three families within Littleton Public Schools following the alleged abuse on a school bus. The law firm claims the bus aide physically and mentally abused children with severe autism and nonverbal communication.

According to the law firm, the alleged abuse has been happening for months, with signs dating back to September 2023. The affidavit also says that there was footage of three assaults occurring in February and March.

The boy’s mother said the repeated assaults could have been prevented.

“Had bus footage been routinely audited, the torture and torment of my sweet boy could have been stopped,” Vestal said.

Schools respond after alleged abuse on bus

Parents said Littleton provides the bus their children ride to The Joshua School, which serves children with autism spectrum disorder and developmental disabilities, as the public school district does not provide the services their children need.

During the news conference, the parents praised the service provided by The Joshua School and said their concern is centered around the bus rides to and from school.

The signs started as families noticed shifts in behavior, physical injuries, unexplained scratches, bruises, a lost tooth, a broken toe, a black eye and other deep bruises on their bodies and feet, according to the law firm. The firm said Littleton Public Schools reviewed a video from one day on the bus and determined there was nothing to be concerned about.

The law firm has a cell phone recording of surveillance video taken from inside the bus. That surveillance video shows a woman, as the law firm said, repeatedly hitting, punching and stomping on a 10-year-old boy.

The parents of two other children came forward as well, saying their nonverbal kids with autism had been physically abused too. The parents said they had been asking for an investigation for months, but little was done to stop the abuse.

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From front left, Jessica and Blake, who declined to offer their surnames, Brittany Yarborough and her husband, Kevin, and Devon and Jessica Vestal wait to speak during a news conference to announce the trio’s plans to sue the Littleton, Colo., school district for abuse suffered by their autistic children while riding the bus to class Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

“We often have to do a lot of fact-finding to find sources of bruises, illness and injury, and the last several months have been nothing but that,” another alleged victim’s mother said.

Littleton Public Schools sent a letter to The Joshua School community and said Jones was hired in August and terminated on March 19, the day the district said it learned about the accusations.

“This kind of behavior cannot be and is not tolerated. As parents, you trust us with the well-being of your children and you should never have to worry about them being harmed when they are in our care,” the district said in the letter.

Attorneys say the entire district failed to protect the students on the bus.

“We expect there to be long-term care needs for the children. We expect there to be long-term care needs for the families,” attorney Edward C. Hopkins Jr. said.

The law firm is calling for the Colorado legislature to create a law ensuring safety. Attorneys said they want Littleton Public Schools to be held accountable for what happened but have not yet filed a lawsuit.

The Joshua School also released a statement to Nexstar’s KDVR on Tuesday, saying it is “devastated about these terrible incidents involving the LPS employee.”

“We share in our families’ outrage and disappointment upon learning of these abuse allegations against our students,” the school said in a statement.

“We were first made aware of bruising by the mother of a student in January of 2024. Self-injurious behavior and unexplained bruising are not uncommon in our students, but because of the concern of a mother trying to identify the source of her child’s injuries, we contacted the school district to request a review of transportation footage for anything out of the ordinary. At that time, LPS assured us that nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. We then continued to communicate and work with the mother to identify the source of her child’s injuries,” the statement continued.

The Joshua School also said it’s cooperating with the Englewood Police Department, which confirmed Jones’ arrest. The investigation started with the Littleton Police Department but was then moved to the Englewood Police Department, where the alleged assault occurred.

“We at the Englewood Police Department understand the severity and the devasting impact this case has on the victims, their families, and the entire school community and we are here to provide additional resources to those affected,” the department said in a statement. “Our primary concern is the safety and well-being of the victims, their families, and all others associated with the school. Upholding the integrity of this case is crucial to ensuring justice for all involved and preventing any recurrence.”

The 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office said Jones was released on a $5,000 surety bond, must comply with a mandatory protection order and cannot leave the state. Court records show she is due in court in May.

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