Hillsborough school bus driver, Stephanie Wilkerson, released from jail

6:18 PM, Oct 26, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida- A Hillsborough school bus driver is out of jail after being charged with child abuse. Yet a month after the incident and a day after her arrest, parents of children who ride Stephanie Wilkerson's bus still had not been notified by the school of the incident on September 28.

Tampa Police say at about 7:40 that morning, 40-year-old Stephanie Wilkerson shoved an 8-year-old autistic girl off her bus using her foot. The girl fell and broke her ankle at Tampa Bay Boulevard Elementary.

Wilkerson has been a bus driver with the Hillsborough school district since 2008 with a clean record until a month ago.

Jorge Arroyave's 6-year-old son Nicholas has Down Syndrome, and has been riding Wilkerson's bus for nearly two years. 

Jorge says, "I never expected any action like that from her." He adds, "That's really bad; really disappointing, really disappointing."

School district officials say on that morning, Wilkerson's bus number 4152 carried 12  first through fifth grade students with special needs- three in wheel chairs, and there was also a bus aide. 

"She's overall a good driver, a very good driver," says Shiray Chatham. 

Chatham says she's been a bus driver for kids with special needs for 18 years, and that these kids are not difficult. 

"No not really; once you know the child's needs, you're here to meet those needs."

We tried reaching Wilkerson at her Tampa home after the judge released her without bail, but there was no answer. She lives there with her mother, two grown children and a grandchild. 

Arroyave says parents depend and trust their child's bus driver. "100%- we put them in their hands. We trust them." 

On October 1, the school district reassigned Wilkerson to work at the Transportation Department away from children.

School district officials say school bus drivers do not receive additional training regarding special needs children, but the training is offered and it's up to bus drivers to take the courses.

School district officials say now that 10 News has brought it to their attention, they will notify the families of the children who rode Wilkerson's bus about the charge against her.

Isabel Mascarenas

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