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Charge dropped against bus driver accused of assaulting child with autism

Christian Drennan. 12, was allegedly abused by his bus driver. Courtesy of the Owens family.

An assault charge has been dropped against a Halton bus driver accused of striking a 12-year-old boy with autism.

Andrea Rodick agreed to a peace bond on Wednesday, which means she can have no contact with the child for 12 months and must attend educational training for dealing with children with special needs.

The boy’s mother, Tasha Owens, fought to have charges laid against Rodick for allegedly swearing at her son and slapping his hand in late November.

“She called him an f*****g retard,” an angry Owens told CityNews. “(And) slapped his hands away.”

“If I would have done that to her, I would have been charged.”

The alleged incident took place on Nov. 29, 2013. Owens said her son, Christian, opened a window on the bus, and when he didn’t respond to the driver’s demands to close it, she became angry and started yelling at him.

Halton police initially closed the case, but an assault charge was eventually laid after police spoke to several witnesses aboard the bus.

“These are children, special needs or not, they’re children. It’s a dangerous situation,” said Owens. “I was very surprised at the first reaction from the officer that it was just completely brushed away.”

She said police told her that the low probability of conviction was the reason why the charge wasn’t laid the first time. She believes that may have been the same reason the charge was dropped this time.

Owens says she feels Rodick has been given a “free pass.”

“If she takes a course that’s going to elevate her status and she’s going to be certified now to look after special needs kids,” she told CityNews. “It’s totally the opposite effect of what we were hoping for.”

A legal expert says this incident should be a wake-up call to the school board to look at their policies when it comes to dealing with special needs children.

“Certainly I think the driver should have had the course before being put in this position,” lawyer David Baker explained. “I think the school board needs to look at the question of whether support in the form of an education assistant on the bus is what’s required.”

Attridge, the company that runs the bus service, says before getting behind the wheel all of their employees must pass a vulnerable sector check, which is done by police to determine whether an individual is suitable to work in positions where they will be in close contact with vulnerable people.

However, the peace bond will appear on future vulnerable sector checks, making the driver’s future employment unclear.

Attridge previously said that should Rodick be convicted she would be fired but if the charge was dropped she could be back at work shortly.