Bus driver fired, charged after violent attack on special needs student

Published: Feb. 11, 2020 at 6:15 PM EST
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(2/11/2020) - A Genesee Intermediate School District school bus driver is off the job and charged with assaulting a student with special needs.

Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said 61-year-old Thomas Norton lost his self-control driving students home from the Michigan School for the Deaf last Wednesday. Norton allegedly attacked one of the special needs students.

“Our investigation shows that he just hit a limit,” Swanson said.

The Sheriff said school administrators reached out to police after seeing footage of the alleged assault.

He was proud that a student recorded the interaction after seeing something wasn't right.

Because it is too difficult to see, Sheriff Swanson isn't sharing the footage of the alleged attack.

“It was from the side,” Swanson said. “The individual was about halfway down the bus and used force to strike his head against the window and yell at him multiple times to stop it and stop it.”

Swanson said even his deputies had difficulty watching the footage.

“It's an absolute example of just losing your cool; and regardless of what buttons were pushed, when you're dealing with the vulnerable population – you have to have the right temperament, you have to have the right discernment and this gentleman did not,” Swanson said.

GISD Associate Superintendent Steve Tunnicliff said the Michigan School for the Deaf contacted the district and administrators immediately put Norton on leave. He's since been fired and charged with third-degree vulnerable adult abuse and assault and battery.

Norton had been a driver with the GISD for 13 years, but Wednesday’s incident was his first trouble with the district. An aide on the bus also was fired; but the Sheriff said, she won’t be charged criminally because she didn’t touch the student.

“It's not something that we obviously ever have or ever will tolerate, because you're talking about, you know, the students and members of our community who need us most,” Tunnicliff said. “So there's absolutely no excuse for it.”

The student is OK and is expected to recover physically from the attack.

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