Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough school bus driver accused of abusing autistic student

TAMPA — A Hillsborough County school bus driver pushed an 8-year-old autistic student off a bus last month, causing the girl to fracture her ankle, police say.

The driver — Stephanie Wilkerson, 40, of near Tampa — was arrested Thursday and faces a charge of aggravated child abuse, a felony.

Police say that on the morning of Sept. 28, Wilkerson was transporting special-needs children to Tampa Bay Boulevard Elementary School, near Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

The 8-year-old girl was trying to get off the bus, and Wilkerson told her to wait her turn.

The girl slapped and pushed the driver. Then, as the girl walked off the bus, she stopped on the middle stair. That's when, according to Tampa police, Wilkerson used her foot to push the girl off the bus.

The student — whom police have not named — fell to the ground and fractured her ankle.

The incident was recorded by a school bus surveillance camera.

On Oct. 2, someone from the school called the Florida Abuse Hotline, and Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office child abuse detectives launched an investigation. Sheriff's deputies passed the case along to the Tampa Police Department, and officers arrested Wilkerson at the Hillsborough County Public Schools Transportation facility at 2 p.m. Thursday.

Late Thursday, she was held in jail without bail.

Wilkerson has been put on paid leave, according to school district spokesman Steve Hegarty, who added that the girl's actions do not excuse Wilkerson's alleged response.

"It doesn't matter what preceded it," Hegarty said. "That kind of behavior is not acceptable."

A woman who answered the door at Wilkerson's home Thursday evening declined to comment.

Wilkerson's only other arrest in Florida appears to have been in 1996, when she was charged with petty theft and obtaining property with a worthless check, according to state records. She pleaded no contest, entered a pretrial diversion program and the charges were dropped.

State driving records show that she has a valid license that allowed her to drive a school bus.

However, her license has been suspended four times since November 2009, according to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Three times, it was suspended because she did not pay a traffic fine. One time, it was suspended because of a lapse in insurance.

She has maintained a valid license since Sept. 20, 2011.

The school district said Wilkerson has not had any prior altercations with students or driving issues since she was hired in 2008.

"To be a bus driver, you need to have a good, safe driving record," Hegarty said. "It doesn't mean it has to be spotless."

When the district first heard about the allegations, it pulled her off her bus route and had her work elsewhere in the transportation department, away from children.

Thursday, district officials sent her a letter typically given to employees who have been arrested and placed her on paid leave.

A district employee cannot be put on unpaid leave until the Hillsborough County School Board votes on the issue. The next meeting where that could happen is Nov. 13.

Times news researcher John Martin and staff writer Robbyn Mitchell contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Hillsborough school bus driver accused of abusing autistic student 10/25/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 25, 2012 11:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Carlton: A moment of sanity when citizens finally said no

    Courts

    If you were looking for some small sign of sanity in the world, here's one courtesy of the people of Tampa and Hillsborough County.

    The Confederate memorial statue outside the old Hillsborough courthouse is now boxed up in plywood to prevent vandalism. Private donors have ponied up money to have the statue relocated to a cemetery. [JIM DAMASKE  |  Times]
  2. Review: Jason Aldean fires up a country-dude party at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre

    Blogs

    Country music has a dude problem.

    I’m not talking about the proliferation of mindless bro country over the past half-decade, nor am I referring to the fact that most of Nashville’s best music these days comes not from said bros, from female singers and songwriters.

    Jason Aldean performed at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on Aug. 18, 2018.
  3. President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police

    Blogs

    President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

  4. Kissimmee police officer dies, one gravely wounded; Jacksonville officers shot

    News

    KISSIMMEE — A Kissimmee police officer died and a second was gravely wounded Friday night, police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of WESH.com
  5. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.