Former Alexandria School Bus Attendant Ordered to Pay $35,000 To Special Needs Child She Assaulted on Bus
On Monday, January 30, 2012, an Alexandria Circuit Court Judge ordered Shawnee Keels, a former Alexandria City elementary school bus monitor to pay compensatory and punitive damages to a 10 year old child she assaulted multiple times in October 2009. Keels, an Oxon Hill, Maryland resident, had previously pleaded guilty to assault and had been given a suspended sentence of one year in jail. Keels did not respond or participate in the civil suit.
In the civil action brought by the child’s mother and father, Judge James C. Clark heard evidence that the child’s mother repeatedly complained to the school sysstem about Ms. Keels and suspected abuses. She testified that she had complained that Keels was assaulting her child, who was born with Down’s Syndrome and was, at the time of the assaults, non-verbal, by pinching him on the inside of his sides, causing bruising. The mother testified at trial that nothing ever came of her complaints and that she tried to be more friendly to Keels in order to get the suspected attacks to stop.
In October 2009, her child came home from school one day and motioned that he had been hit in the face. This time the mother called the Alexandria Police who were able to recover the video monitoring that was on the Alexandria City school bus. The tape showed Keels striking and kicking the child multiple times and the bus driver and Keels ordering the child to walk to the front of the bus while the bus was in motion. Clark ordered Keels to pay $25,000 in compensatory damages and $10,000 in punitive damages.
“I brought this suit in order to make sure that other parents would not have to discover the horror of knowing that their special needs child was being subjected to physical and emotional abuse on a school bus”, said Hayat Ramadan, the child’s mother.
Benjamin W. Glass III, is a personal-injury lawyer based in Fairfax, Virginia. To schedule an interview with Attorney Benjamin Glass, call 703-591-9829.
The case is Hilal v. Keels, CL 10003462, Circuit Court of the City of Alexandria
Questions and Answers about this case:
Q: Does the video still exist?
A: Yes, Mr. Glass has the video. Since it shows the faces of other public school children riding the bus, it cannot be used for public broadcast without “shadowing out” the faces of the other children.
Q: When and where did Ms. Keel’s plead guilty to the criminal charges.
A: In the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of the City of Alexandria in February 2010
Q: Is the Alexandria City School Board responsible for this assault?
A: Not legally. The School Board was sued however they contended that they were protected by “sovereign immunity” and they were dismissed from the case prior to trial. The Supreme Court of Virginia has said time and time again that “sovereign immunity is alive and well in Virginia.” Ms. Keels would have been immune for her negligent acts but she is not immune from suit for her deliberate assault.
Q: What will happen next?
A: We will attempt to collect the judgment from Ms. Keels, and will use all tools at our disposal to do so.
Q: Is a transcript of the trial available?
A: A transcript has been ordered and will be available shortly.