Seminole County bus driver arrested after putting special-needs student in elbow lock, deputies say

James Blanton, 73, accused of child abuse

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – A Seminole County bus driver was arrested Thursday afternoon on accusations of child abuse on their bus earlier this week, according to Seminole County Public Schools.

Deputies said a student recorded a video of bus driver James Blanton, 73, who placed a special-needs student into a wrist and elbow lock, causing the student to cry out in pain.

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Surveillance video showed that the student was strapped into a chair with both hands on the partition in front of him, making no movements toward the bus driver or any other students aboard the bus when Blanton grabbed him, deputies said.

In a release, SCPS said that the incident happened on a school bus Monday, though school officials and law enforcement weren’t notified until late in the day on Wednesday.

Previous surveillance video of the school bus showed that there were two separate incidents where Blanton had grabbed the student and lifted his arm, the arrest report shows.

The report also shows that Blanton told deputies he’d worked as a bus driver for the district over the last 15 years.

Another employee aboard the bus — Lisa Florio, 61 — was also arrested on a charge of failing to report suspicions of child abuse, records show.

In an interview, Florio told deputies that she witnessed Blanton putting the student into a lock, and she felt as though it were excessive, deputies said. However, she didn’t file a report on the incident, an arrest report reads.

News 6 asked the district if there have been any previous complaints or regarding these two employees. A spokesperson said neither of them had a history in terms of complaints.

Katherine Crnkovich, communications officer with Seminole County Public Schools, said there will be an internal investigation and that training is required every year for every employee in regard to what child abuse looks like and how to report it.

“We are mandated reporters,” Crnkovich said.

The release shows Blanton and the bus monitor were placed on administrative leave as the investigation continues.

When asked if this incident could lead to any changes within the school district, Crnkovich said that officials are consistently reviewing their policies and training requirements.

“We want to take this opportunity to reiterate that the safety of our students is our highest priority, and behavior like this will not be tolerated at Seminole County Public Schools,” the district wrote in a statement.

Blanton faces a charge of child abuse without great bodily harm.

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