LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson County Public Schools is adding 20 bus monitors to its routes based on the results of an audit by the Kentucky Department of Education.

But the mother of an autistic student who reached a $500,000 settlement with the district after he was sexually assaulted on a school bus says JCPS needs to ensure that all buses carrying special-needs students have aides on board.

The 20 new bus monitors, approved Tuesday by the Jefferson County Board of Education, will be assigned based on necessity to the district’s normal bus routes. Buses that transport special-needs students use what are known as special needs transportation assistants, which are placed on routes based on students’ needs.

The 20 additional bus monitors will cost JCPS $460,500, and Mike Raisor, chief operations officer for the district, said the new hires won’t cover every route.

Some factors in deciding which buses will get monitors include whether the bus must stop at a depot during its route or buses with a large number of students for longer periods of time, he said.

“We wanted to add additional spots that we could fund more bus monitors so every bus where we felt like a monitor was needed, even if not all the time, we could add them,” Raisor told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting.

Rhonda Martin said that wouldn’t have prevented her son Jacob, a severely autistic student at Ballard High School, from being sexually assaulted on his bus by another student. The incident that ultimately led to the $500,000 settlement happened in January 2017 when her son was 17.

“If they are not SNTAs and they are not aboard every single bus a child is on with special needs, then they’re not even making a drop in the bucket,” she told WDRB News.

Martin said she tried four times to get an aide placed on Jacob’s bus after he began pulling out his feeding tube and coming home with his clothes in disarray. After the incident came to light, Martin says the district placed an aide on her son’s bus.

And she says she’s not the only JCPS parent of a special-needs child who has asked for help on the bus.

“We’re not just talking sexual assaults,” Martin said. “We’re talking feeding tubes and tracheotomies and medically fragile children, and I do understand that most of those kids do have someone on the bus because they’ve put in the request and they’ve been accepted, but in my case, and I know many others’ cases, parents have requested an SNTA for medical reasons and have still been denied.”

Raisor said there’s “no correlation” between the $500,000 settlement and the push to add more bus monitors to JCPS routes.

State auditors recommended such action following its 14-month review of JCPS, he said. The local school board is currently appealing interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis’s recommendation of state management for JCPS in a 12-day hearing that starts in September.

“We want to have monitors on our buses that want and need them and our schools that feel like they need bus monitors for certain buses,” Raisor said.

Still, Martin says her fight isn’t over.

“What they put in that budget that it’s going to cost for these 20 monitors is one lawsuit and one child that doesn’t have to be hurt,” she said. “I’m not going to rest until I see an SNTA on every bus.”

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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