PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - A Palm Beach County mother is demanding better background checks after her autistic daughter stood up for a child allegedly abused at the hands of their bus driver.
The 18-year-old autistic girl used her cell phone to expose the actions of a bus driver - who is now off the job.
Her mother, Leigh Tourino, is proud and also pressing for change. "She did a good job," said Tourino. "She was fearless."
What the teenager recorded on her cell phone camera Monday has made a difference. Footage shows her Metro Mobility bus driver shouting profanity at a 20-year-old autistic man. Then, the driver can be seen tethering the man's hands with a seat belt. The driver claims the man tried to open the bus door.
Because of the tape, this driver has been fired. "We want to make sure it doesn't happen to anybody every again," said Tourino.
Candi Spitz is the spokesperson for Autism Speaks. She has six-and-half-year-old twin boys. Both children are on the autism spectrum. "I just watched this video and I was crying in my car," said Spitz.
Spitz says the video highlights a major disconnect between the needs of autistic kids and the skills of the people who watch these children.
"This is going to be a long time before this child gets this image out of his head and he wasn't doing anything wrong," she said. She believes cameras should be on board all buses and that child safety locks should be on the doors.
Most importantly, Spitz is urging more training - and just more patience. She said it could help reassure parents as they send their kids out into the world, or even just onto the school bus.
"I'd say 'thank you' as a parent to the mother for instilling in her daughter that this is the right thing to do, " said Spitz.
Metro Mobility, which employed this driver, is contracted by Palm Tran for certain routes and door to door service. The company is vowing to give drivers better training - including sensitivity training - to prevent something like this from happening again.