More charges filed in case of Seminole student with special needs abused on bus, district says

James Blanton, Lisa Florio arrested Thursday

James Blanton, 73, and Lisa Florio, 61 (Seminole County Sheriff's Office)

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Additional charges have been filed in Seminole County in the case of a school bus driver accused of abusing a student with special needs and a bus monitor who investigators say saw it happen but did not report it, according to a district spokesperson.

James Blanton, 73, and Lisa Florio, 61, have been on administrative leave since their December arrests and will remain on leave until an investigation is concluded, the spokesperson said. According to Seminole County deputies, Blanton has said he’s been a bus driver for the district for 15 years. Florio claimed to have been an employee of the district for more than 29 years, according to her arrest report.

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Blanton faces six counts of child abuse without great bodily harm while Florio faces six counts of failure to report suspected child abuse, booking and court records show.

Florio and Blanton were booked again Thursday, both held on no bond ahead of a court appearance set for Friday afternoon, records show.

James Blanton, 61 (Seminole County Sheriff's Office)

Blanton and Florio were initially arrested Dec. 1 after investigators said they were shown a video recorded in November by another student on a school bus. The video showed a child cry out in pain after Blanton placed them in a wrist and elbow lock, deputies said.

“As a district, we hold our employees to the highest standards in serving the students and families of our community and we are disappointed and upset. There is absolutely no tolerance for this kind of behavior at Seminole County Public Schools. We are thankful for the student who brought this to our attention and we would like to encourage anyone who feels they may have witnessed an incident we should be aware of to report it with Fortify FL, the Speakout hotline at 800.423.TIPS or at or contact your school administration team or our district office.”

Katherine Crnkovich, communications officer, Office of Communications | Seminole County Public Schools

Blanton also is accused of abusing special needs children in separate incidents on Nov. 8, 14, 15, 17, 18 and 29, according to an arrest report. These abuses included pinning a child’s arms, bending a child’s wrist and pushing a child’s face.

Florio, who is required in her role to report such incidents, said nothing until two days later when Blanton was relieved of his driving duties, according to the sheriff’s office.

An arrest report also shows she was present and failed to report all previous November incidents listed above.

Deputies said a student recorded a video of bus driver James Blanton, 72, who placed a special-needs student into a wrist and elbow lock, causing the student to cry out in pain.

This is a developing story. Check back with News 6 for the latest updates.

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About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.