A 68-year-old Illinois woman, a former bus monitor for the First Student bus company, denies slapping and hitting an 8-year-old boy with special needs from the Naperville area of suburban Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reports. The incident, which reportedly occurred in April, prompted an investigation, and now she is facing charges of misdemeanor battery.
"This is probably the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my life," Joyce Jones, who is from Bolingbrook, a Chicago suburb, said. "Nobody's talking to me now. I'm a pariah."
Naperville police accuse her of slapping the child "in the mouth and [hitting] him in the left arm several times on the bus."
"This unfortunate incident was brought to our attention shortly after it occurred," Naperville Police Cmdr. Jason Arres told the Tribune on Monday, adding that the police investigated the case with officials from the Indian Prairie School District 204.
"Based on the facts obtained in the investigation, including working with the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office, a decision was made to seek charges against Ms. Jones," Arres said.
Jones, however, is telling a different story. She says that she never hit the boy, whom she described as "combative" and "a screamer."
"He screams as loud as he can," Jones told the Tribune. She described the boy as big for his age and said that he can be "a fighter. When you've been hit by [him], you've been hit by Muhammad Ali."
"I did not slug him," Jones insisted. "I did not slap him. I took my hand and kind of rubbed it over his mouth [after he] spit deliberately in my face, and I barely touched his mouth."
Jones also argued that neither the school district nor First Student officials gave her "any training for what to do about [the boy]" when she accepted the monitor job for $9 an hour.
"I did not hurt [him]," Jones said. "He told me he loved me. I told him I loved him."
School district Superintendent Karen Sullivan, however, sees the case as "a serious incident" and reportedly said that administrators immediately called for the monitor and the bus driver to be removed from the district's routes.
First Student subsequently terminated Jones, and company spokesman Chris Kemper said that "safe and reliable transportation of our student passengers is our top priority."
"We're disappointed by the actions of our former employee, Ms. Jones, who was terminated … after we were made aware of [the incident] and investigated it," Kemper added.
Jones is scheduled to appear in court June 21.
Read more at the Chicago Tribune.