Palm Bay teacher accused of yanking student with autism from bus

Margaret Joyce O'Connor, 54, arrested on charge of child abuse

By J.D. Gallop

Margaret O'Connor.

PALM BAY, Fla. - A school teacher who police said yanked a severely autistic student so hard that he fell face down from a school bus onto the pavement, was arrested last week.

The boy was not injured in the incident, which was also captured on the school's video surveillance system, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

“It’s an active investigation,” said Nicki Hensley, spokesperson for Brevard Public Schools.

“Obviously we are taking it very seriously,” Hensley said.

Margaret Joyce O’Connor, 54, a teacher at Lockmar Elementary in Palm Bay, was charged with child abuse without causing great bodily harm after Palm Bay detectives were called to the campus May 2 to investigate reports of a child injured by an instructor. The Department of Children and Families also was called and O’Connor was placed on administrative leave as a criminal investigation got underway.

The incident happened at noon April 30, and drew the attention of administrators after an email to the assistant principal asked for the school transportation department to review video recordings on the bus to evaluate the student’s behavior. It was then that administrators saw O’Connor yank the student off the bus, reports show.

Police said O’Connor sent a note earlier to the assistant principal saying that the student had been disruptive on the bus recently and that she and the student both "misstepped" off the bus. The boy, however, was uncooperative.

The video shows O’Connor stepping onto the bus and screaming at the student to "Stop it,” reports show. The boy apparently had been throwing his shoes before O'Connor got on the bus, reports show. O’Connor leaned over, unbuckled the boy from a seat belt harness and dragged him in the bus aisle, a video shows.

O’Connor then climbs down the bus stairs while the boy appears to brace himself, reports show. It was then that O’Connor appeared to jerk the child off the bus, records show.

O’Connor was booked into the Brevard County Jail. No hearing dates have been scheduled.

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