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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Pasco bus assistant, accused of slapping autistic student, resigns

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Published:   |   Updated: June 10, 2014 at 05:32 PM

A school bus assistant accused of slapping a 10-year-old autistic student on a Pasco County school bus submitted his resignation Tuesday, and Jose Baez, the attorney who defended Casey Anthony, has agreed to provide legal representation to the boy’s mother.

Meanwhile, school district investigators questioned the bus driver, who said she did not see or hear the boy being slapped, a district spokeswoman said.

The bus assistant, James Lambert, 57, wrote a brief letter to Superintendent Kurt Browning to say that he was resigning retroactive to June 3, the last day of the school year and the day the incident happened.

The school district already had suspended Lambert, who had worked for the district since 1998, and planned to start the process of terminating his employment, a district spokeswoman had said Monday.

Lambert, of Hudson, was arrested Friday on two counts of child abuse and later released from the Land O’ Lakes Jail after posting $10,000 bond.

The incident was captured on video by one of the three surveillance cameras on the bus.

An investigation began after the boy’s mother, Lori Lamb, complained to the school district the next day. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Baez confirmed that his law firm had taken Lamb’s case, but could not give details about possible legal action against the school district. Baez is best known as the attorney who won acquittal in 2011 for Casey Anthony, who faced a murder charge in the death of her 2-year-old daughter.

Linda Cobbe, a spokeswoman for the school district, said no decision has been made on whether to discipline the bus driver, Dianna Harvey. There actually were two slapping incidents, about 15 minutes apart, and video shows that Harvey was driving through an intersection during one of them, Cobbe said.

“She says she could not hear any slapping,” Cobbe said. “And she did not see anything in the rear view mirror.”

One of the surveillance cameras is situated near the driver and is pointed toward the bus door, Cobbe said. That video shows the back of Harvey’s head and the door. Nothing can be seen on the video to indicate Harvey knew what was happening, she said.

The incident on the bus began on the ride home from Moon Lake Elementary when the boy began to curse. A man the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office identified as Lambert yelled at the boy, “If I come back there you’re gonna get it.”

The video shows Lambert — who is 6 feet 1 and weighs 250 pounds — walking to the back of the bus and sitting across from the boy, who was restrained in a harness.

He slapped the boy across the face, causing him to yell and moan, the video shows.

After the boy then slapped Lambert on the arm, Lambert retaliated with another slap to the arm, the video shows.

Even after Lambert and the boy traded slaps, Lambert remained facing the agitated boy for nearly a minute, the video shows.

In the second part of the video, about 15 minutes later, Lambert again walked to the back of the bus after he heard loud cursing.

Lambert bent over to pick up a pair of shoes in the walkway before leaning over the boy’s seat, sitting down next to him. After the student tried to grab the shoes, Lambert began to walk away before turning around and slapping the boy. He then again verbally confronted the boy.

When questioned by the sheriff’s office, Lambert initially denied slapping the boy, but then investigators told him about the video.

rblair@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1853

Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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