A Colorado bus aide who admitted to kicking, hitting, and spraying a student with autism in the face with aerosol disinfectant will spend 20 months behind bars.
Monica Burke, 52, was also sentenced to five years probation and ordered to complete 360 hours of community service after pleading guilty to assaulting an at-risk person, ABC News reports. In July, the bus aide also confessed to verbally abusing Shiva Rai, 21, over a six-day period in August 2016.
Rai is reportedly nonverbal and has an extreme sensitivity to sound.
“She betrayed our trust, she betrayed the nature of her job, she betrayed basic human morals, and there’s no other word for Monica Burke but evil,” the man’s sister, Laxmi Rai, said in court.
“Only an evil person can kick, punch, slap, chemically poison and torture someone like Shiva.”
At the time of the attack, Shiva rode a bus from the Longmont School District to Firefly, a Denver-based nonprofit that assists people with autism.
A teacher reportedly witnessed Burke yelling at Shiva while the terrified student was “raising his hands to protect himself,” according to an arrest affidavit. Bus security cameras captured the aide kicking Shiva and spraying him with Lysol.
The bus aide’s sentencing comes after the St. Vrain Valley School District, who employed Burke, paid out $3.85 million to the victim’s family. The Denver Post reports that the settlement ended a U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights investigation into whether Burke tormented Shiva, who is Nepali-American, because of his race, national origin, and disability. The federal investigation would have also determined if the school district appropriately responded to the ongoing harassment.
“Shiva was the only person of color on that school bus. There were other autistic students on that bus and Shiva was the only one who was targeted,” the student’s civil attorney, Qusair Mohamedbhai, told KCNC.
The bus driver, William E. Hall Jr., was also charged for failing to report the assault. ABC reports that he has since pleaded not guilty.
Burke’s attorney claimed that his client suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being raped as a teenager. He also claimed that Burke, who was only on the job a few months, had no training on how to assist people with special needs.
“You spray something toxic at something you want to kill,” Shiva’s father, Vhim Rai, told the judge, according to KCNC.
“We pray and ask that no other at-risk person has to go through what we went through.”‘
Burke apologized for her actions in court.
“I’m so sorry for my actions. Not only am I very sorry, but I’m very ashamed and very embarrassed of myself,” she said. “I truly am not that type of person that I saw on the videotapes.”
The former bus aide was also banned from ever working with at-risk people, which includes individuals with developmental disabilities and the elderly.
[Featured Image: KCNC/screenshot]