Bus driver accused of choking 7-year-old; driver claims she was breaking up fight

Sandra F. Henderson
Sandra F. Henderson

A public school bus driver was arrested Tuesday following accusations that she choked a 7-year-old boy the morning of Nov. 6 before arriving at Highland Elementary, an incident that was caught on video by surveillance cameras on the bus.

East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies booked Sandra Henderson, 58, 441 W. Grant St., Baton Rouge, into Parish Prison on Tuesday afternoon on counts of cruelty to juveniles, prison records show. She was released after posting a $5,000 bond.

Marvin Trotter, executive assistant to Superintendent Bernard Taylor, said school officials responded to the incident immediately after it occurred and have cooperated with the investigation. Highland Elementary school officials said they could not comment on the incident.

Domoine Rutledge, general counsel for the school system, said Henderson has not been fired, but was placed on paid administrative leave following the incident. He said human resources officials will make a recommendation to Taylor on whether Henderson should be fired.

“We take these matters very seriously,” Rutledge said of the allegations. “You have to understand that we have a dual obligation. Not only do we have an obligation to our parents and to the students we serve, but when incidents like this arrive, we also have the obligation to afford the employee with some level of due process and that due process is rather prescriptive as it relates to school bus drivers as it relates to state law.”

Rutledge said, to his knowledge, the child was not injured in the incident, but he did not know if the child’s mother took him to a hospital after leaving school.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, the victim, flanked by his mother, told deputies that afternoon that Henderson thought he and his brother were fighting and choked him with both hands. The child also said the driver used her knee to pin him to the seat.

The dean of students at Highland Elementary told deputies other students on the bus corroborated the boy’s story, the affidavit says.

Deputies then contacted the transportation division supervisor to watch the surveillance video Tuesday afternoon.

On the video, Henderson walked to the back of the bus, where there was a disturbance going on, the affidavit says. When she turned to walk back to the front of the bus, the victim is seen standing in the aisle, taking his backpack off. The video showed Henderson grabbed the boy’s arm and he instinctively tried to pull away, the affidavit says.

Henderson is then seen trying to forcefully push the boy into a seat with both hands around his neck and shoulder. The boy also struggled while Henderson was still pushing him down by the shoulder and into the child sitting next to him in the seat, the affidavit says.

Detectives questioned Henderson and they watched the video together, the affidavit says.

She said when she was walking to the front of the bus, she saw the 7-year-old standing over his brother, who was crying, the affidavit says. She said when she grabbed the boy to stop them from fighting, he swung at her.

She said she grabbed him with both arms to stop him from swinging at her, but he continued swinging and kicking at her so she put her knees in front of his to restrain him, the affidavit says.