AP NEWS

Parents sue Kaneland schools over son’s treatment

May 3, 2019

BLACKBERRY TOWNSHIP – When their nonverbal son, Mitchal, began showing signs of trauma and distress in July 2017, his parents decided to put a recording device in his backpack to hear what was happening to him as he rode a bus to school.

They were horrified at what they heard.

“What they did to our son Mitchal was absolutely appalling,” Mitchal’s father, Paul Padavana said.

The Padavanas are suing Kaneland School District 302 and the bus company, alleging that their son was verbally and physically abused while being driven to a private school in Naperville.

The lawsuit, filed in 2018 in DuPage County, seeks more than $50,000 in damages. Paul and Amy Padavana, of Blackberry Township near Elburn, sued on behalf of their son, who was 9 at the time.

According to the lawsuit, Kaneland arranged the transportation for Mitchal through the North American Central School Bus LLC, which also does business as Illinois Central School Bus LLC.

Mitchal began showing signs of trauma, distress and acting out with extreme aggression about July 5, 2017, the lawsuit states. His parents put the recording device in his backpack from July 6 through 11, according to the lawsuit.

The recordings revealed to the Padavanas the reason for their son’s distress, including the driver saying to the aide, “What the (expletive) are you doing? Let him go.”

In another part of the recording, the driver advises the aide, “Don’t leave no bruise, whatever you do.”

The aide responds that he knows.

“Right on the chin. Chinny chin. I’ll be like, ’I think he just fell asleep, slid over and hit [his chin] on the arm thing right here.”

The parents say in the suit that they canceled Mitchal’s transportation arrangements after hearing the recordings, but their son continues to suffer from symptoms associated with trauma, including aggressiveness, fear and self-harming behavior.

The Padavanas’ lawsuit says the bus company was negligent by not providing qualified staff, failing to train staff and failing to provide a video monitoring system on the transportation van.

The lawsuit also accuses the bus company of causing emotional distress for the boy because the employees played loud rap music, used profanity and threatened to harm him.

Specifically, on July 11, 2017, “defendant employees intentionally threatened to punch him in his face, causing Mitchal to fear for his safety,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Kaneland School District was negligent by failing to ensure Mitchal would be provided with qualified staff, failing to vet the bus company and failing to provide suggestions to the bus company to aid in Mitchal’s transportation.

Both the bus company and Kaneland filed court papers asking DuPage County Judge Robert Kleeman to dismiss the Padavanas’ lawsuit, in part because it is illegal to record private conversations in Illinois without the consent of all parties.

Kaneland’s court filing also asserts that the district is immune to being sued for willful and wanton disregard and for negligence claims, citing Illinois law that gives immunity to local governments and their employees, as well as the Illinois School Code.

Among the bus company’s various reasons why the lawsuit against it should be dismissed was that the driver and aide were employees of the Illinois Central School Bus, not North America Central School Bus LLC, stating the Padavandas’ named the wrong company in their lawsuit.

The bus company also asserted in court papers that the Padavanas did not allege that the bus company knew or should have known that the bus driver or aide would commit verbal or physical abuse.

Representatives from D-302 and the bus company had no comment. The next court date is scheduled for June 27.