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Former Colorado bus aid arrested for assaulting autistic students

A former Colorado public school paraprofessional was arrested last week after surveillance footage showed her assaulting a severely autistic, non-verbal student on a school bus.

Kiarra Jones, a former bus aid for Littleton Public Schools, was arrested by the Englewood Police Department Thursday, facing charges of crimes against an at-risk juvenile, including third-degree assault.

The police investigation found Jones had assaulted other students, too.

“It was determined that more than one non-verbal autistic student was assaulted by the suspect on a moving school bus while en route to school,” Englewood PD stated in a press release. “It was also determined that the suspect was the victims’ assigned paraprofessional employed by Littleton Public Schools at the time of the incident.”

A prominent legal firm in Denver, Rathod Mohamedbhai, is representing the three families of the victims.

“Each school day, these students board a special needs bus provided by the Littleton Public School System to transport them from their home to one of Colorado’s most highly regarded schools for Autistic students – The Joshua School,” the press release read.

“Each trip on the bus subjected these innocent children to unfathomable abuse by an LPS bus aid. Due to their non-verbal status, none of the victims were able to tell anyone that they were being abused.”

But the families began to see a shift in their children’s behavior and began noticing physical injuries last year.

In September, Brittany Yarborough’s son came home from school with a purple and swollen toe. She took her son to Children’s Hospital Colorado and after an X-ray he was treated for a broken bone.

Yarbrough contacted the school but said nobody had answers as to what happened.

“He can’t tell us where it hurts and explain what he’s feeling,” Yarbrough said, according to The Denver Post. “We thought, ‘Maybe he somehow hurt himself,’ and left it at that, which is so frustrating.”

Throughout the year, other injuries were reported.

In January, Jessica Vestal contacted the school asking about bruises on her son’s arm, neck and thigh.

Emails obtained by the law firm reveal that district officials began to suspect perhaps something happened on the bus.

“Last Friday his mom noticed some bruises on his arm, neck and thigh,” school employee Lisa Bodek wrote, according to a screenshot of the email. “TJS has looked into it and they cannot determine when and where they came from (neither can mom.)

“So, we are wondering if something may have happened on the bus and are hoping you could take a look at the film/footage and let us know. It sounds like he takes some medication that can cause bruising or make it more likely for him to bruise and we are just trying to figure out what happened…if anything.”

But another school official, Michelle Molina, wrote back: “We reviewed the video and there is nothing out of the ordinary that occurs during the ride home.”

The law firm claimed the district’s failure to take further action allowed the abuse to continue for months.

“LPS failed to give credible suspicion of abuse the attention it required,” the law firm wrote. “LPS looked at a single bus ride and determined there was nothing to be concerned about and provided no further monitoring, allowing months of uninterrupted abuse to continue.”

On March 18, Vestal contacted the Littleton Public Schools transportation department after her son came home with bruises on his foot and thigh.

The next day the mother was informed that local law enforcement had enough video footage to charge Jones with abuse.

“I was just in disbelief,” Vestal told The Post, explaining that she and Jones were friendly, and even texted on occasion about her son’s wellbeing.

Vestal recalled a text exchange earlier in the year where Jones informed her that her son had a poor reaction to one of the staff members, who he ran away from.

“When he did come home and we saw those bruises, the seed had already been planted,” Vestal said.

She assumed the staff member Jones had mentioned was responsible and instructed the school to keep the staff member away from her son.

Vestal has records of 15 dates when her son came home from school with visible injuries. Police have confirmed three of those dates coincide with video footage of Jones’s alleged abuse.

Parents suspect there is more footage, but police have told them that LPS has not yet turned it all over to law enforcement.

Following the discovery, administrators from The Joshua School called the other mother, Yarborough, to look at the surveillance videos, which revealed the awful assault Vestal’s son endured from Jones while riding the bus.

Jones can be seen elbowing the child in the stomach, slapping him in the face, stomping on his feet and shoving his body into the side of the bus.

“I was in absolute heartbreak watching his face,” Yarborough said, according to The Post. “He was so terrified.”

Jones is out of police custody after posting $5,000 bail, according to the county sheriff’s office, as she awaits a trial date.

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