Former FCPS educator in school bus incident speaks exclusively to Key Conversations Radio

A jury found the school worker not guilty of assault

Key Newsjournal Staff Report

Originally posted online May 21, 2017 7:23p

Last updated: May 22, 2017 1:30p

The mother of a special needs student at a Fayette County middle school has filed a multi-defendant lawsuit based on an incident that was caught on camera.

WARNING and EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is unedited FCPS bus footage showing the girl slapping Paraeducator James Coleman and Coleman striking the child in response. Contains strong language and violent images.

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According to the civil lawsuit, on April 30, 2015 the special needs student was waiting to exit the bus and enter the building when defendant James Coleman held a conversation with another adult on the bus holding a ”loud” conversation that ”involved audible hand gesturing /clapping”. The student was triggered by the noises and reacted with a ”physical outburst”. The lawsuit claims that Coleman ”violently punched the minor child in the face causing significant damages.”

Coleman sought medical care on April 30, 2015 and found he’d suffered a broken blood vessel in his eye and that he was hit across the bridge of his nose.

After Coleman strikes the girl in the video, she turns and moves toward another adult male on the bus. Someone said, “she’s bleeding’’ and a female adult on the bus got paper towel for her.

The strike to the child’s face by Coleman was ‘’a defensive reaction’’ he says.

On local station WLEX- Channel 18 a reporter states that Coleman knocked teeth from the girls mouth. A photo, of unknown origin, was shown on-sceen during the report.

The photo, which was not part of the legal filings available at the courthouse, shows the mouth of a person that is missing teeth, at least one upper central and one upper lateral.

Speaking exclusively to Key Conversations Radio, Coleman said he’d seen the photo before, however it was not taken by the school, a doctor or law enforcement but was taken by the parents.

In his criminal trial, according to Coleman, witnesses and police said there were no teeth found on the bus and that the child’s mouth did not look like that after the incident.

The video in combination with the photo and lawsuit have angered many people and some social media posts include threats to harm Coleman.

As a result, Coleman says he’s basically withdrawn from the public and had to quit a job managing a local restaurant for fear of his safety.

The suit alleges that Coleman had worked with the girl for months and knew she had a history of violent behavior.

Not so, said Coleman in a May 21 Key Conversations Radio interview. “I’d seen her act out in class and turn her desk over, but that was because she didn’t want to do the work, not because of a loud noise,” Coleman said. The young lady had also attended loud concerts under Coleman’s care, without incident.

James’ Attorney William L. Davis explained that his client was prosecuted for this incident and was charged with assault 4th degree, which could have resulted in a 12-month jail term. But in July of 2016 the case went to trial and Coleman was found innocent by a jury.

However, the mother is now seeking punitive damages from Coleman, Fayette County Public Schools, former Superintendent Tom Shelton and current Superintendent Manny Caulk among insurance companies and the school principal.

Listen to Key Conversations Radio interview with James Coleman here:

Atty. William L Davis represents Coleman and said there are many steps before this lawsuits makes it to trial.

”They have asked for a jury trial in the lawsuit. But before they can get to that jury trial they have to go through me and a whole bunch of other folks.  It is our intention to make sure that the case doesn’t get there, but if it does we are looking forward to trying it in front of a jury, if necessary,” Davis said in the same Key Conversations Radio interview.

The Key Newsjournal will continue to follow this story.