MEDFORD, Ore. — “I just think it needs some light spread on this situation. A lot of these kids can’t verbalize what’s going on,” said Rachelle, the victim’s mother.
A Medford mother says she’s fighting to keep her 10-year-old daughter safe after she came home from school last week traumatized.
“Just kind of disbelief that this is the safest that my kid can be,” she said. Rachelle says her daughter, who we’ll call Jane (which is not her real name) is deaf.
Twice a week, Jane and other special needs students go to the Oregon School for the Deaf in Salem.
It was on that trip last Friday that Rachelle says her daughter was sexually assaulted.
“She told me that one of the high school boys on the bus pulled his pants and underwear down and put her on his lap. And she said that he had tried to grab her genital area,” Rachelle said.
Oregon State Police are now investigating. The students on the bus are in the Medford School District, which declined to comment about the incident, but said it’s aware of the investigation.
“We entrust these people with our kids, you know, and these aren’t just any kids… these are kids with special needs and they cannot communicate,” Rachelle said.
The district says there is an adult monitor on the bus who supervises the children, but that monitor does not know how to communicate using sign language. That’s a major problem for Rachelle.
“She’s non-verbal so when she’s on that bus the whole time there is no way for her to communicate with anyone other than the other kids,” she said.
Cincinnati, Ohio-based company, ‘First Student,’ is contracted by the Medford School District to operate the bus. The company hasn’t returned multiple calls seeking comment.
Its website, however, says “students with special physical and emotional needs deserve the highest quality care, and we deliver exactly that through our rigorous training programs.”
Rachelle knows she can’t rewind the clock and protect her daughter, but going forward wants to ensure no one else has to go through this.
“I just want the kids to be safe, you know. I want parents to put their kids on the bus feeling like they’re going to be okay,” she said.
The criminal case is currently being investigated by Oregon State Police.
Although the bus is run by ‘First Student,’ the Medford School District tells us they are closely involved in making decisions with the company to ensure student safety.
The district has since requested the company hire a monitor who speaks sign language, and that someone is placed at the back of the bus.