The Beaufort County School District has made no attempt to cover up the alleged abuse of a 4-year-old autistic child, superintendent Jeff Moss said Saturday in a statement that refutes claims the child’s attorneys made in court last week.
The statement also detailed some steps the district has taken in response to the case against one of its former Durham School Services bus monitors, Lillian Jackson, who was charged with child neglect in February 2015 after a nonverbal, autistic boy’s mother complained of marks on her child. Bus videos from the time showed Jackson slapping and grabbing the child on his ride to Bluffton Elementary School.
Moss said the district has learned of areas in need of improvement and revision through the course of the case and had instituted training of special-needs bus drivers and bus monitors a year and a half before severing its contract with Durham in April 2016. The district is now in charge of its own bus management, and continues the training, he said.
In addition, the district hosted a training session for principals and members of the district’s leadership team on mandatory reporting requirements — the South Carolina law that requires schools to tell law enforcement if they have reason to believe a child is being abused or neglected.
That training was conducted by the University of South Carolina School of Law Children’s Law Center, Moss said.
“The safety of students enrolled in the Beaufort County School District is of the utmost importance to the BCSD,” Moss said Saturday.
The mother of the child sued the district, Durham and Jackson in May 2015. Her lawyers, Ronnie Crosby and Skip Utsey, argued in Beaufort County Circuit Court on Thursday that the district knew or should have known about the alleged abuse five months before it finally came to light that February.
That’s because in September 2014, at the mother’s urging, school officials had requested and received video clips from three bus rides in which they suspected the child may have been abused, but they watched only a portion of one day’s clips before determining it did not contain any criminal activity. There are now conflicting reports about whether law enforcement ever received those September 2014 videos, with the school principal saying ‘yes’ and the school resource officer, a district memo and a police report saying ‘no,’ Crosby and Utsey said.
Clips from the two other bus rides — Sept. 11 and 12, 2014 — weren’t watched until the mother complained again in February 2015, Crosby said at Thursday’s court hearing. They show Jackson placing her hands on the child more than 100 times, Crosby said.
Later, Crosby said, the district tried to conceal the fact that it had allegedly not met its mandatory reporting requirements.
Moss, who initially declined to be interviewed about the case, said in his statement Saturday that’s not true.
“We have worked diligently to fully respond to the allegations and cooperate with law enforcement, and we will continue to do so to ensure Lilian Jackson, a former Durham School Services employee, is prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Moss said. “At no time whatsoever has the BCSD attempted to cover up Ms. Jackson’s alleged abuse of a child.”
“The BCSD and I are committed to continuing to work in concert with local law enforcement agencies and the Solicitor’s Office to ensure justice is served in this case. I want to assure you that your children’s safety on our buses and in our schools is our top priority alongside educating your children.”
The district’s attorneys, Duke Highfield and Brandt Horton, did not respond to a request for comment.