Sussex County parent speaks out after daughter with down syndrome was assaulted by staff in the Cape Henlopen School District

The father of a child with down syndrome who attends Milton Elementary School is speaking out after his daughter was allegedly assaulted by a bus aide.

Ryan Pickett addressed the Cape Henlopen School Board on Thursday, April 28 where he spoke about an incident that occurred in January on a school bus involving his daughter who has down syndrome. He was granted three minutes to speak where he told board members how his daughter was reportedly punched by a bus aide and that district officials did not notify him or investigate the matter in a timely manner.

Pickett was dismayed to learn of the incident, not from district personnel, but rather from the police who called to notify him of what happened two weeks after the incident occurred.

“I came here today to share that my eight year old was physically assaulted by a district employee while riding the bus to school in January of this year, and to convey our concern over the lack of action taken by the leadership in the Cape Henlopen School District as a result,” Pickett told the board. “Two weeks after the incident in question my wife received a phone call from the State Police to inform us that our daughter was hit by a bus aide.”

After Pickett and his wife learned of what transpired, they immediately contacted the Cape Henlopen School District Offices and requested a meeting with leadership to discuss what happened and to find out why they were not notified.

“Shocked and devastated, we contacted district office and asked to meet with Superintendent Fulton. We were eager to meet and offered to do so at a time of their choosing,” Pickett said. “Despite being made aware of abuse of a child on his watch, Mr. Fulton refused to meet with my wife and I. I remain curious to know what was more important to Mr. Fulton than reported child abuse in the Cape Henlopen School District on that day.”

After it was clear Superintendent Bob Fulton would not meet with the family, Pickett says he was contacted by other officials in the district who set up a meeting where he was able to view footage from the bus that reportedly showed the employee physically punching his daughter.

“At the meeting, my wife and I watched the bus video in which the aide punched our child in the head twice,” Pickett stated. “We could also hear the verbal abuse the aide gave towards our daughter, despite the severity of the situation, the only assurance we were given was that the aide would never be on our child’s bus again. At the time of the meeting, the aide was still employed with the district. Let me be clear, there is a video of a Cape employee punching and verbally abusing our daughter with special needs.”

Around that time, Pickett was cut off by Cape Henlopen School Board President Dr. Alison Myers who said “sir, that’s your three minutes. Mr. Pickett, that’s your three minutes” to which Pickett responded by saying “I can finish here or with the local news” to which Dr. Myers responded by saying “that’s what you’re going to have to do sir, three minutes is all you have.”

Interestingly enough, Dr. Myers, according to her biography on the Cape Henlopen School District website, is a former special education teacher. TV Delmarva’s Rob Petree reached out to Dr. Myers in an email:

You cut him off right at 3 minutes, when the board can and has in the past extended time for sensitive issues like this, but yet you cut him off and were entirely unsympathetic to the issue he and his family are facing due to a lack of due diligence on the part of the school district. Seeing as you are a former special education teacher, how do you justify how you treated Mr. Pickett?

According to Pickett, the bus aide who assaulted his daughter was arrested and charged by Delaware State Police; however, it remains unclear at this time whether or not the employee in question is still employed with the district.

We still have not received a response from Dr. Myers or officials with the Cape Henlopen School District requesting additional information. TV Delmarva News Director Rob Petree is set to meet with Ryan Pickett this weekend to hear the full story and further investigate the matter.

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