DELTONA, Fla. - Parents of an 11-year-old boy are fighting to keep their son on Votran's bus so he can go to school.
Joshua's parents were shocked to learn their son is now banned from Votran's Gold Service, a bus for people who are physically and mentally disabled.
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"My son was suspended off the bus for a misunderstood incident that happened between him and another student," Joshua's mother, Lisa, said.
Lisa, who declined to reveal her identity, said Joshua made some comments to a 16-year-old girl while on the bus Friday afternoon.
"He wanted her to touch his back. He had an itch on his back, basically, but he doesn't know how to communicate verbally. She was uncomfortable and wanted him to stop," she said.
The mother said that incident delayed the bus for over an hour, prompting her to panic and call 911.
"He's autistic, he's 11 years old. I don't know where the bus is and I can't find the bus. I can't find him," she said.
Deputies said Joshua never touched the teen and there were no signs of criminal activity. The Department of Children and Families also got involved.
"I just couldn't believe it. He just cannot communicate. I know how he talks. He's got the personality of a 5- to 7-year-old," she said.
Joshua's mother showed News 6 Votran's policy on appropriate behavior. The pamphlet states, "the company can suspend someone for seriously disruptive behavior, threats or violent/abusive treatment toward the operator or passengers."
It goes on to say, "seriously disruptive behavior does not include behavior or appearance that only offends, annoys, or inconvenience other riders or employees."
"This is his only means of him getting back and forth to school, which is in Daytona Beach. He would be unable to attend school, he would lose his scholarship, he'd lose his education," Lisa said.
Lisa told News 6 that she has support from law enforcement and social services, but needs Votran to get on board.
"They are improperly doing an investigation backwards. They're punishing the child before an investigation is completed. All we want is Joshua back on the bus and let this thing blow over," she said.
News 6 called Votran several times on Tuesday and left messages, but a spokesperson has yet to call back.
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