LONGMONT, Colo. (CBS4) – A school employee is accused of beating up an at-risk adult on a school bus.
Monica Burke, 51, worked as an assistant on a bus for autistic students in the St. Vrain Valley School District.
SVVSD buses are used to transport students with special needs from Boulder County to their schools across the front range.
Burke is accused of hitting a student with severe autism, spraying aerosol cans in his face and even being mean to the bus driver.
One alleged case happened on the bus at the Joshua School on East Dartmouth Avenue in Englewood. A staff member at the school was the one who reported the incident.
The 20-year-old victim in this case was a student at Firefly Autism School in Denver, and was on the bus when it stopped at the Joshua School.
Longmont Police Sgt. Todd Chambers said the abuse may have taken place in Denver, Englewood, and Boulder County.
“It is pretty disturbing. You wonder the motivation of it. Why is this person doing this?” Chambers said.
An arrest affidavit shows police now have a week’s worth of surveillance video from the bus that they will use in the case.
An arrest report suggested Burke was annoyed with the student’s odor, which may have sparked her anger.
Police said audio recordings from the bus taped Burke saying “[the student is] so smelly, why don’t you take him to the doctor?”
Burke was arrested Thursday night, after police say surveillance video showed the student being kicked, punched, hit with a seat belt, and sprayed in the face with Lysol.
Police said video proved the abuse happened for at least one week, possibly longer.
“The victim in this case was essentially helpless,” Chamber said.
The arrest report for Burke said the autistic student could not speak, and was not able to communicate to others about the abuse. Police said the man could only hold his hands up to protect himself.
CBS4 went to Burke’s home to seek comment. A man answered the door, and told CBS4 there would be no comment.
When the SVVSD was contacted, a spokesperson denied to answer questions, citing a personnel matter.
Firefly Autism School told CBS4 the wellbeing of their clients is of their utmost concern.
Staff at Joshua School told CBS4 they applaud their staff member for being observant and reporting the alleged abuse. The school said they do not believe their students were physically assaulted at any point. However, they were looking in to whether or not any of their students had been verbally assaulted by Burke.
Burke was charged with 16 counts of felony third-degree assault on an at-risk adult, six counts of second-degree felony assault on an at-risk adult, and 16 counts of misdemeanor caretaker neglect on an at-risk adult.
Police said all charges would normally be misdemeanors. However, due to the victim’s autism, most charges were raised to felony offenses.
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.