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District places driver on leave during investigation

A Springfield City Schools bus driver has been placed on paid administrative leave after a mother reported to school officials she believes the driver might have abused her two special needs children.

The driver was placed on leave effective May 20 and the case has been forwarded to Children’s Services for investigation, Superintendent David Estrop said. The steps taken are standard procedure, he said, and the district didn’t release the driver’s name, citing confidentiality laws regarding open investigations.

A public records request by the Springfield News-Sun is pending for all district employees currently on paid administrative leave.

Tamara Carlisle said she first noticed bruises on the legs and arms of her 9- and 10-year-old sons in January. The 9-year-old is autistic and the 10-year-old has global development delays. Neither boy speaks.

They attend special needs classes at Perrin Woods Elementary School and are transported by a Springfield City Schools bus.

“(My son) showed up with marks between his knees and his ankle that looked like somebody had beat him with a bat,” she said. “I was horrified by the look of my son’s legs.”

Carlisle made complaints to numerous school officials, including the principal and transportation director, she said.

She then met with Estrop and other administrators May 20 to discuss her concerns, after which the driver was placed on leave. Estrop said he couldn’t discuss Carlisle’s prior complaints, but said parents are always encouraged to contact school officials with safety concerns.

“Please bring it to the district’s attention as soon as possible so we can act and act accordingly,” he said. “Like any case where there’s allegations of misconduct by one of our staff members involving a child, as mandated reporters, I will make that call every time.”

For now, the boys are being taught at home by a district-provided instructor, which Estrop said will continue until the matter is resolved.

The school year concludes today. Estrop said the home instruction program will continue into the next school year for Carlisle’s children should the case not conclude by then.