A Pennsylvania bus driver has been accused of using duct tape to restrain a 10-year-old boy with Down syndrome to a seat on her bus.
Upper Darby school bus driver Juliet Pratt, 54, admitted to the District Attorney’s office that this was not the first time she duct-taped the boy to his seat, CBS News Philadelphia reported.
She was arrested and charged with unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, endangering the welfare of a child and assault.
Police were called to Hillcrest Elementary School on March 8 for reports that a school bus driver assaulted a 10-year-old boy.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said that the student, who has Down syndrome, was already sitting in a district-supplied safety harness when Pratt began putting duct tape on him.
According to Stollsteimer, the child was not acting out or causing any issues that would require the bus driver to react to him.
“The child was retrained in a harness on the bus, a special harness, this is a child with Down syndrome and was not doing anything to act up in any way,” Stollsteimer told CBS. “The driver decided to use duct tape to tape his ankles and to tape across his chest as well.”
After arriving at Hillcrest Elementary School, Pratt used a seat belt cutter to remove the tape from the child and threw it in the trash.
Surveillance video showed Pratt wrapping duct tape around the child’s ankles and chest even as he was sitting in the safety harness, the DA’s office said.
“Using duct tape on a child who was already fully restrained in the vehicle’s harness was not only inexcusable, it was also dangerous. Had an accident occurred, this child would have been unable to free himself from the tape,” said Stollsteimer.
This was not the first time Pratt used duct tape to restrain the child, according to the criminal complaint.
“She did not say why this particular time because the surveillance video from what I understand shows the child acting perfectly normal,” Stollsteimer said. “So I’m not sure what was going through the driver’s mind in that moment but whatever it was it was criminal.”
It’s unclear how school officials learned of the incident.
Upper Darby School District officials say they are cooperating with the investigation, noting that it was a personnel matter.
Pratt is no longer driving busses at this time, the district said.