Bus Driver Kicks Autistic Girl Off Bus & Breaks Her Ankle

Stephanie Wilkerson
Stephanie Wilkerson
I'd like to say I can't believe it happened, but sadly, outrageously we see stories like this too often. This one happened last month in Tampa, Florida, when school bus driver Stephanie Wilkerson, 40, pushed an 8-year-old girl with autism off the bus, fracturing her ankle in the process. 

According to the Tampa Bay Times, it happened on the way to school on September 28. When the girl was trying to get off the bus, Wilkerson told her to wait her turn. For some reason this caused the girl to get angry, and she supposedly slapped and pushed the driver. Obviously that's not acceptable behavior, but anyone who works with special needs children -- and any adult really -- needs to know that physically retaliating isn't okay. That's just what Wilkerson did though.

The paper reports that as the girl stopped on one of the stairs, Wilkerson took her foot and used it to kick the girl off the bus. The girl fell, and her ankle was broken in the process. Fortunately someone called an abuse hotline, and the incident was all caught on a surveillance camera installed on the bus, so it wasn't left to go unpunished ... as I fear too many of these incidents do when it comes to children with special needs.

Working with children who have autism isn't always easy; no one says it is. But there's no behavior or incident that ever makes it okay for an adult to physically abuse a child like this. None.

Fortunately, the school district isn't excusing the woman's actions because the girl was violent first. Steve Hegart, school district spokesperson, told the paper, "It doesn't matter what preceded it. That kind of behavior is not acceptable."

Wilkerson was arrested last week for the incident and faces felony charges of aggravated child abuse. I hope she is prosecuted to the full extent of the law. It won't change what happened to this poor little girl, but we have to send a message that treating children -- any children -- in this manner is not okay and won't be tolerated.

Can you imagine this happening to your child?


Image via Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

autism, education, elementary school


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

MamaH... MamaHasWings

Glad she was arrested. She has no right to KICK a child off of a bus, whether that child hit her first or not. Thank God the little girl was not injured more seriously - although a broken ankle is still awful! - but what if she had hit her head on the concrete or something? The whole situation is just a damn shame and the Board of Education should really do personality assessments on all employees who work around children.

fleur... fleurdelys3110

I feel like most of the children on the bus would have behaved more acceptably in this situation than this supposed adult. The bus driver should have let the girl off the bus and then went to her teachers to explain what happened.

nonmember avatar Lynn

What about the child? She is in school around other kids. And will be around other people her whole life. She cant go around slapping people that annoy her with out even a "no that's bad". No the adult shouldnt have touched her, but she need atleast a talk from someone. I don't think the driver should have touched her, but im also worried about the girl and the people around her.

Janell Smith

This just makes me ABSOLUTELY SICK!!! I have a friend and then a cousin that both have children that are autistic, and I as well have worked with a few kids that were autistic. These kids may get loud and angry but physically abusing them is not the answer!!!!

Renee Stout

Are you kidding? I have an autistic child and some times his lack of ability to express his emotions cause him to lash out.No, hitting people is not ok however, teaching as autistic child this can be an on going struggle. Unless you yourslef have had a special needs child or working with them you have no clue how hard it can be.

nonmember avatar lael

One more reason why I home school....

Melissa Campbell

Lynn the child has autism, and if you have ever known someone with autism  and even if you all of them are not the same.. for some it's really  hard for them to control their emotions and often show them through anger.. the parents probably took care of that.. but like the man said no matter what happen the 40 yr old shouldn't have responded with violence.. I personally think that even if the child didn't have autism, it didn't give the driver rights to be violent back.. that's for the child's parents and school to decide how the child should be punished... I am seriously afraid to send my child to school with all these reports of teachers and drivers being violent like they have been here recently..

nonmember avatar Jennifer Woods

I have an autistic son and if people learn and read up on austism one things they all do is lash out when they don't understand something or confuse about an situation. She was trying to get off so she should have let her. My own son lash out at school and at home and until u people raise an autistic child u will mwvwr understand what gies on in their mind and how they look at the world around. I hope she goes to jail and hope someone kicks her ass for what she did to that child. Anyone who put their feet on my child ler alone put their hands on him I am going to jail. Take my words how u want to.

Valerie Thunderburk


nonmember avatar Erin

Physically retaliating against any special needs child is absolutely unacceptable. I taught swim classes for autistic children for years, many of them would lash out when they were frustrated. If you don't have the patience and understanding to deal.......them don't work with them. This is just horrible.....

1-10 of 100 comments 12345 Last