(WARNING: Images in the video story may be difficult for some to watch.)
LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A child’s leg was broken on a school bus and it was all caught on camera. But a Las Vegas valley mother says the Clark County School District wouldn’t let her see the video.
The video captured by a camera on the school bus and shows how Jabez Hernandez’s leg was broken. However, the journey to get the video which reveals the truth was painstakingly long and emotional for the child’s family.
“We’ve cried one too many times over this,” said Andrea Esquivel, parent.
Today, Jabez is eight years old. He is also autistic and unable to speak.
On Feb. 1, 2016, when he was four, Andrea Esquivel sent him to school on a special needs bus and later received a call that her son’s leg was swollen.
“That they didn’t know what had happened and if we had had any idea and if we could go down to the school,” she said.
When both parents arrived at the school, a nurse had already called 911 and Jabez was crying in pain.
“We were asking questions about what had happened and they were asking questions as if we knew what had happened. Like no, he was fine in the morning,” Esquivel said.
An X-ray at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center gave the parents more information
“The doctor gave us the news it’s a spiral fracture, and that, he said that it seems as if someone had broken his leg on purpose.”
That’s when, she says, Metro police and Child Protective Services stepped in.
“We come to find out that they want to blame us,” Esquivel said.
She provided the I-Team with the police report which lists the parents as suspects. She says she and her husband were separated and interrogated. And she claims investigators threatened to break up her family of six. Three of the children are autistic.
“Both CPS and police threatened my husband with immigration. They threatened if you don’t say if you or your wife did this, then we’re going to arrest you guys and you’re going to be deported back to Mexico just like that,” she said. “And when CPS threatened to take our kids away, that’s when I lost it.”
A couple of days later, Esquivel says a detective gave her a call to say the school bus video revealed another student broke her son’s leg. So, she asked CCSD for the footage.
(WARNING: This is the bus video from two different angles and may be difficult for some to watch.)
REPORTER VANESSA MURPHY: “What was their answer?”
ANDREA ESQUIVEL: “No, that they can’t due to privacy.”
That’s when she turned to a lawyer and sued the school district. More than one year later, through court proceedings, the family received access to the video which is tough to watch and hear because you can hear the child’s leg breaking.
Jabez cries and the child who broke his leg tells the bus driver.
CHILD: “Bus driver his leg’s broken.”
BUS DRIVER: “What?”
CHILD: “His leg’s broken. His leg’s broken.”
BUS DRIVER: “Yeah?”
CHILD: “Yeah, his leg’s like this. See?”
BUS DRIVER: “Broken?”
CHILD: “Yeah? he cannot even moved (sic) his feet.
BUS DRIVER: “we’ll deal with it at school.”
It’s unclear how long Jabez suffered with a broken leg before the bus stopped at school.
The lawsuit alleges the bus driver forced Jabez to walk off the bus with the broken leg and when he collapsed he made him walk again.
“You know we only thought that he must have felt hopeless,” Esquivel said.
She says it took three months for Jabez to recover. For a non-verbal boy with so much energy, keeping him bedridden was a challenge. Esquivel says he doesn’t walk the same anymore.
She provided documents which show the family did get a $65,000 settlement from CCSD in March. It appears a law firm took half and she says the other half is in a trust fund for Jabez.
But she insists this isn’t about money. She wants CCSD to have an aide on every special needs bus.
“If there would have been a bus aide in the first place then that would have never happened and the boy would have been buckled in,” Esquivel said.
The I-Team reached out to CCSD to get answers about why the district wouldn’t let Esquivel see the video. A spokesman said distributing it could be a violation of federal law. The district has argued previously showing other kids’ faces violated privacy.
The I-Team asked if the district has technology to blur faces. CCSD’s response was: “We’re looking into it.”
Court documents identify the bus driver as Pat Siroky. The CCSD spokesman says there is a current bus driver with that name. The spokesman also said the district is unable to discuss individual student matters so it’s unclear if the student who broke Jabez’s leg, or the bus driver, were disciplined.
UPDATE on July 29th: Initially, a spokesman for the Clark County School District said “the district could not reveal whether the bus driver who did not render aid right away or the other student were disciplined.”
Then on Saturday, July 27th, a spokeswoman sent the following statement about the incident:
“The district considers school buses an extension of the classroom. The same zero tolerance for physical violence that is expected in the classroom is also expected on school buses. This case dates back several years and has been settled. We understand the family’s concern and share their concern for their child and all children in the district.”
REPORTER VANESSA MURPHY: “What do you say to your child when something like this happens?”
ANDREA ESQUIVEL: “I just hope, I hope he doesn’t remember.”
Esquivel, who is an American citizen, says her husband was threatened with deportation. At that time, he had not yet applied for U.S. citizenship, but has since done so. She says his status is pending.