WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Palm Beach County school bus aide was arrested Wednesday after police said he abused special needs children.
Michael Tolliver, 54, of Boynton Beach faces charges of aggravated child abuse and child abuse causing bodily harm.
The police report says one incident occurred Feb. 14 at Rolling Green Elementary School in Boynton Beach on a bus for special needs students.
The report says Tolliver put his hands around the neck of a 10-year-old child, lifting the student off the ground. The police report says Tolliver is 6 feet, 300 pounds while the victim is about 4 feet 9 inches and weighs about 80 pounds.
“The behavior was so outrageous and violent, this never should have happened,” said Gary Lesser, an attorney who is representing the family of the alleged victim. “It’s made him sad, it’s made him fearful and who wouldn’t feel that way, a child facing these challenges, it’s a terrible thing.”
Police said they reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance video, and over the course of their investigation they found other incidents of abuse where they said Tolliver "used his position of authority to knowingly, willfully and intentionally abuse and exploit the vulnerabilities of children who, by virtue of their disabilities, cannot speak for themselves."
The report says investigators have "clear and convincing" evidence of the abuse.
“I think the district needs to take a look at the system and make sure they’re employing proper people to be placed in the care with these children," said Melissa Barton, an advocate for children with special needs.
Tolliver has worked for the school district since 1989.
The district issued this statement Thursday:
The employee was immediately removed from contact with children after the incident. The presence of cameras on District buses was instrumental in the School Police investigation that lead to the arrest. The District demands nothing less than professionalism and compassion from all employees for all children, at all times, and the District never hesitates to investigate any employee who deviates from these standards. With a workforce of over 22,000 employees this individual does not represent the core values of District personnel who steward their roles and responsibilities for students with great pride and care. School Police has been in contact with the parents of all children involved as part of the investigation.
We just hope he’ll face the consequences for what he’s done in abusing children and never be in that situation again,” Lesser said.