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Bus abuse complaint leads to investigation

JONESVILLE — The Catahoula Parish School Board is under federal investigation after a Jonesville-area couple filed complaints regarding the treatment of their 8-year-old Down syndrome child, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Jim Bradshaw with the U.S. DOE press office said the Office of Civil Rights received a complaint June 2 alleging that the school district discriminated against the child on the basis of his disability by failing to provide needed services and providing inferior resources.

Bradshaw also said the complaint alleged there was retaliation toward the child by the school district.

The Office of Civil Rights has agreed to investigate several complaints from the couple, including that school employees allowed the child, Brandon Beard, to get off the school bus completely naked on a cold, rainy day in January, multiple claims of physical abuse and even falsified behavior reports, said attorney Wesley Johnson, who is representing the Beards, said.

Johnson also said Brandon’s parents, Tammye and Carlos Beard, filed a federal appeal on the case in Fifth Circuit court in Alexandria to seek proper education and training for Brandon.

“Brandon is a loving, wonderful boy,” his mother Tammye Beard said. “Sure he is a little mischievous like most boys his age, but he does not deserve what he has been put through.”

Beard said the problems started in 2010 when reports were filed on a bully on the school bus who was picking on Nathan Beard, Brandon’s nephew and Tammye’s grandson who lives with the family.

The principal of the school made the report, and the bully then was transported to and from school on the bus that transports handicapped children, Beard said.

“If the child is causing problems on the regular bus, why would it be any better to put him on the handicapped bus?,” she said.

Johnson said the child was eventually moved back to the regular bus.

After this, Johnson said the Beards wanted to move their son to the regular bus, since he had never had any behavioral problems reported.

“The parents noticed there were two buses arriving at their house every day, taking the kids to the same place,” she said. “So they decided to try and get Brandon on the regular bus.”

Johnson said it was during this time that she was brought in by the Beards to talk to the school board about Brandon.

“It was finally ruled that (Brandon) could ride the regular bus in May,” she said. “It took way too long, and he shouldn’t have had to go through what he did to get there.”

Johnson said after she was brought in as the Beard’s attorney, the school started having problems with Brandon they had never had before.

“It went from zero complaints to a laundry list full of them,” she said. “It was day after day full of problems.”

Beard said on Oct. 16, 2010, Brandon had scratches on him that allegedly came from his aide on the school bus.

Less than one month later, Beard said Brandon’s teacher allegedly falsified a behavior report.

Then on Jan. 18, Beard said her child got off of the school bus naked, and that the bus aide said it was Brandon who was responsible for taking off his clothes.

Beard said the aide told her Brandon had taken his clothes off multiple times during the 40-minute bus ride home, and that the aide said she kept putting them back on Brandon.

Brandon allegedly took his clothes off one last time before the bus got to his house, and the aide did not have time to dress him before he left the bus, Beard said.

“He can’t undo his belt by himself, so I don’t know how he got his clothes off by himself more than one time on the bus,” she said.

Beard said Brandon had also previously gotten off the bus in only his underwear.

Johnson said the DOE will review the incidents, along with another that also allegedly occurred in January in which a substitute teacher reportedly slapped Brandon.

CPSB Superintendent Gwile Freeman said in an e-mail that the school board is unable to comment on the current allegations.

“While any parent is free to make public claims or comments of any nature or kind regarding their opinions, the board recognizes that it is inappropriate for it to comment on confidential matters involving its students,” she said. “While the lack of a public response to public comments, whether by a parent or otherwise, may place the school system at a disadvantage in the realm of the news, Facebook and other social media, maintaining student and employee confidentiality is not only important, it is required by law. Please rest assured that the Catahoula Parish School Board continues its mission of providing a quality education for all students, as well as a safe and supportive environment for students and staff.”