Delray Beach mom sues school district over former bus driver's fondling of daughter

The mother of an 11-year-old special needs student has sued the Palm Beach County School District for negligence after a former bus attendant admitted to touching the woman's daughter on a bus last year.

The mother, whose name is being withheld to protect her daughter's anonymity, alleges in the suit filed today in Palm Beach County Court that the school district was negligent when it hired Thony Desir, and failed to provide a safe environment when it allowed Desir to assault the woman's daughter on a school bus returning home from Banyon Creek Elementary School on March 29, 2011.

The woman is also suing Desir directly, accusing him of exposing himself to the girl on the bus and putting fondling her. Scott Smith, the woman's attorney, said district officials learned of the incident and brought it to the mother's attention, who then got more details from her daughter. According to a school police report, Desir admitted to exposing himself and touching the girl.

Desir, 40, of Delray Beach, pleaded guilty to two counts of assault in May of this year and received probation. In July, he was arrested on a probation violation. He was released from jail again on bond earlier this month. The exact nature of his probation violation is unclear.

Desir had no arrests or convictions prior to the bus incident, according to records. But Smith said part of the reason for the suit against the school district is that he questions how thorough its background check of Desir was before they put him in a position where he had contact with special needs students. He questioned whether the district talked to previous employers or anything else to determine whether Desir had any propensity for this type of sexual behavior towards children. Simply doing a criminal background check is "just not enough" he said.

"Something should have sent up a red flag somewhere," Smith said. "He should not have been around children."

School District General Counsel Sheryl Wood did not respond to an e-mail regarding the suit. District legal staff typically do not comment on pending litigation. According to the school district, Desir was fired in April 2011 shortly after being arrested.

Smith said that because of her daughter's limited ability to communicate to a jury, the woman understood the case might be difficult to prosecute at trial and thus understood prosecutors allowing Desir to plead guilty and receive probation. But Smith said the woman was angered to learn that just a few months later, Desir was arrested for violating that probation.

The girl is receiving counseling and is now attending private school, Smith said.


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