LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The mother of the special needs child who was sexually assaulted on a Jefferson County Public Schools bus fears it could happen to other children.
In January 2017, school bus surveillance video revealed Rhonda Martin’s son being raped at least five times.
A $500,000 settlement was reached with the district and her son, Jacob, will receive structured payments of $14,500 annually. Martin hopes it will help cover unknown costs of the future.
“How he processes this over his lifetime is yet to be seen,” Martin said. “I do know he has a photographic memory and so that’s unfortunate.”
In addition to sharing details of her son’s autism, Martin is also sharing his name. She said she hopes associating a name to the story will pressure JCPS to enact new policy.
“These bus drivers need to know these kids on their buses,” she said. “They need to know who might be dangerous. They need to know who can’t speak.”
Martin said her son’s rape was preventable. She requested an aide for his bus, but never received one. She believes sufficient monitoring of special needs bus routes is missing.
“It’s not just about Jacob, it’s about all these other kids too, and it’s going to happen again,” Martin said.
Martin still holds guilt for not being able to protect her son. Jacob has autism and is non-verbal. His assailant is noted to have a behavioral disorder with a bad history.
The Martin’s attorney, William McMurry, wrote in his demand to JCPS that the assailant was a minor who does not live with his parents. He is known to Child Protective Services.
“I stood at that door and I welcomed Jacob home from the bus every day,” Martin said. “My arms were wide open and smiling and asking how his day was and he had just been assaulted.”
According to the JCPS audit report, there is no process to make sure issues and triggers are shared with bus drivers.
“Who is going to be responsible for the things that are happening, and who is going to fix it?” asked Adam Martin, Jacob’s brother.
Adam said everyday he thinks about the pain his brother has internalized. As Jacob is nonverbal, therapy would be ineffective in dealing with the trauma.
The Martins want to see change for other children. For Jacob, they say no money in the world will take away his torment.
Jacob is back in his special needs classroom at Ballard High School with teachers that his mother describes as loving and supportive.
The Martins believe the problem stems from JCPS decision makers and employees like Jacob’s bus driver, who never reported seeing children naked on the bus.
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