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Follow-up on school bus driver accused of slapping special needs student

A Pensacola mother says a school bus driver slapped her 9 year old special needs son.

The driver, Pamela Hardy was arrested Tuesday and charged with cruelty towards a child. She was later released on $15,000 bail.

Channel Three News obtained this surveillance video showing the incident. 9 year old Marquis appears to hit Hardy, and Hardy hits the child back. Marquis' mother, Timisha Cotton says Hardy was in her son's personal space and as an adult, Hardy should not hit a child.

Channel 3's Kalie Desimone has more on how Escambia County School bus drivers are trained in conflict resoultion and trained to be sensitive to special needs students.

It was on a bus like this one, a nine year old boy with special needs was wrestling with his brother.
The bus driver asked the two boys to stop but they didn't. What happened next has the mother of that special needs boy feeling angry. "I saw her strike my son and I am not happy about it at all" says Timisha Cotton. In the bus camera video seen here, it looks like 9 year old Marquis hit the bus driver first, but his mother says something else happened.

"He tapped her on the lip like that and she went and striked him" says Cotton.
Timisha Cotton says her son is developmentally delayed, suffers from hearing loss and has been diagnosed with ADHD.

"There are ways to redirect students' energy or their activity" says Rob Doss, the Director of Transportation, Escambia County School District. Doss says he can't comment on the specifics of this incident since it is still under investigation, but says each bus driver that transports a special needs student is personally introduced to the child and is made aware of that child's challenges.

"We have documents on the bus that tells us what to be mindful of and what the child responds to and what kind of care they need to have" says Doss.

Still, Marquis Cotton's mother says training must not have been enough for her son's bus driver, so she wants action taken. "I don't even want her working with children. Period" says Cotton.

Superintendent Malcolm Thomas says that the bus driver has been placed on paid leave and will not have any contact with students during the investigation.