An Eastern Hancock Schools bus driver was fired this week amid allegations he pushed a boy with special needs out of the vehicle when the child didn’t exit quickly enough, police said.
Harold Eugene Cass, 10188 N. County Road 675E, Pendleton, faces a charge of battery; he was not arrested but has been ordered to appear in court at the end of the month, court records show.
The Eastern Hancock school board voted to fire the 74-year-old bus driver at Monday’s regular board meeting.
Security video from aboard the school bus shows Cass pushing a boy who is developmentally disabled in the back, causing him to fall forward, police said.
A home health nurse who cares for the young victim, including helping him off the bus each day, called police in August to report having seen the boy tumble out of his school bus one day after classes, court documents state.
The nurse said Cass shoved the boy, commanding him to move more quickly, court documents state. She told officers she saw the boy’s chest and head jerk forward before his feet moved, reports state.
The boy fell forward into the nurse’s arms, and she carried him into his home, she told police. The boy was not hurt, court documents state.
Cass denied the allegations when questioned by investigators, according to police reports. The bus driver told a detective the boy did not want to get off the bus that afternoon because it was raining heavily.
The boy lost his footing, stumbled and fell out the door, Cass said, according to court documents.
Cass stuck to his story even when police told him security cameras on the bus caught the incident on tape, according to court documents.
Typically, an aide rides the bus with the boy during trips to and from school, and his nurse waits at the bus stop each afternoon to lend an extra hand, according to charging documents.
Detectives also interviewed the bus driver’s aide who was on the bus that afternoon.
The aide said he thought the victim tried to jump from the top step of a set of stairs that leads to the ground, court documents state. He told investigators he did not see Cass push the boy, but he heard Cass yell, “Get off the bus,” records state.
Eastern Hancock school board members did not comment on Cass’ firing during their regular meeting Monday night.
Scott Petry, the assistant vice president of the school board, told the Daily Reporter board members are not typically made aware of the circumstances surrounding an employee’s termination unless that employee comes before the board to appeal the actions against them.
Petry said he did not know any details about the criminal case against Cass and declined to comment further about the personnel issues.
Vicki McGuire, the district’s superintendent, issued a statement on the incident via email Tuesday, commenting that the safety and well-being of the district’s students always comes first.
“The driver was immediately taken off his route,” she said. “His behavior was unacceptable.”
Cass declined to comment on the allegations.
The case marks the second time this school year an Eastern Hancock bus driver’s performance has been called into question.
A student was left alone on a bus for at least 30 minutes in August after a bus driver forgot to drop the student off at home after school, officials confirmed last month.
District leaders said the bus driver didn’t realize the child had been left behind until the child’s parents called the school when the student never came home at the end of the day.
That driver’s name has not been released, and school officials declined to comment about whether any disciplinary action was taken against that driver. Police were not contacted about the incident, officials said.
Cass faces one Level 6 felony count of battery on a person younger than 14. The charge carries a penalty of six months to 2½ years behind bars.
He been ordered to appear in Hancock County Superior Court 1 at 10 a.m. Sept. 29.