BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A school bus driver for Highland Elementary in Baton Rouge was arrested after being accused of strangling a 7-year-old student on the bus.
It happened on November 6 after school. An East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Deputy was called to the victim's home around 3:30 p.m. that day.
The child's mother told deputies that the school informed her of the situation. The 7-year-old explained to deputies that the bus driver thought he and his brother were fighting. According to the child, the bus driver, identified as Sandra Henderson, 58, grabbed him around the neck with both hands and "choked" him. He also said the bus driver pinned him down in the seat with her knee.
A deputy called the Highland Elementary Dean of Students and was told that several students on the bus said the driver "choked" the victim.
"Like every mother I was furious, upset, mad and I wanted to go behind her," said Jezere Deloch, mother of the 7-year-old.
Six days later, a deputy met with the transportation supervisor to review the surveillance video from the day of the incident. It shows Henderson move to the back of the bus where there was a disturbance. Then, Henderson turns and begins to walk back to the front. At that time the victim took off his backpack and stood in the aisle.
Officials tell us that the video shows Henderson grab the 7-year-old by the arm with one hand and it appears the child jerked away. They say Henderson is seen grabbing the child from behind and around the neck and shoulder area using two hands.
It appears the victim is trying to struggle and the video shows Henderson still holding the victim around the upper part of his body as he is being pushed against the other child in the seat.
At this point the victim is no longer seen on the video. It appears she is using her body to pin the victim down as she continues using her body to push in a downward motion.
"He was only standing up to tie his shoe. The first time he stood up she told him to sit the "F" down so he said when he got to the school and he got up again to tie his shoe once the bus had parked, she got up and came to the back of the bus, she choked him and put her knee in his stomach," said Deloch.
Deputies contacted Henderson and she was read her rights. She then watched the surveillance video with the deputy and was asked to explain what happened on the bus that day.
Henderson told deputies there was a fight on the back of the bus and she saw the child standing over his brother and the brother was crying.
Henderson said she grabbed the 7-year-old to try to stop him from fighting. She said the child swung at her and she said she placed her hands across the child, folding both of his arms across her body to stop him from fighting her. She said the child continued to fight and kick at her. She said she placed her knees in front of his to restrain him.
Deloch says she still hasn't seen the video. "They keep saying that they're going to look at it but they're not asking me do you want to come in and look at the video to see what really happened. Right now I only have his side of the story and I want to talk to her and ask why she would do that to my child."
The deputy then told Henderson based on the actions seen in the surveillance video, she was being charged with cruelty to a juvenile. She was handcuffed and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on a $5,000 bond.
"This bus driver has gotten into it with multiple parents on this street. It's not the first incident. She has cussed parents out, slammed the door in their faces, it's always something with her. If she's doing that to a 7-year-old, just think about what she's doing to other people's kids," Deloch said.
The East Baton Rouge Parish School System Office of the Superintendent released the following statement:
Today, a bus driver employed with the East Baton Rouge Parish School System was arrested in connection with an incident which occurred on or about November 6, 2013. School system personnel were made aware of the incident immediately after it occurred and responded appropriately. Moreover, we have cooperated fully with the parents of the students involved, as well as law enforcement, and will continue to do so. As for the bus driver, appropriate personnel actions are underway pursuant to school board policy and applicable state law.