BAMBERG, SOUTH CAROLINA – A 17-year-old has been charged with misdemeanor assault after allegedly slapping a 5-year-old on a school bus in Bamberg County last Thursday. The incident is raising questions about how appropriate it is for children from K through 12th grade to ride the bus together.
Tuesday, a judge set the accused, Tavon Walters’, bond at $1,000.
“On the video, it appears that Tavon picked up another girl’s hand– there had been a little alteration of some sort, maybe even at school, and he said that she needed to hit her back– the little girl that was eventually slapped,” said Phyllis Schwarting, Superintendent of Bamberg District One. She said he then picked up the girl’s hand and brought it to the kindergartner’s face and hair maybe three or four times.
Walters was on probation at the time of the incident, but Schwarting said she was not aware of any violence in his past. A representative from the police department asserted that his juvenile record did include violence, “things like a baseball bat, a knife…that kind of stuff,” he said at the hearing.
The superintendent says the buses have assigned seating, with the kindergartners in the front and the older students in the back.
Although the buses have cameras, the child’s parents say it’s not enough.
“We’re standing up for those, who…in the future, that more monitoring can take place,” said Terry Peters, the father of the 5-year-old.
The superintendent said she cannot release the footage from the incident while it’s under investigation, but people have been posting about it on social media–some even threatening Walters.
“Some of the remarks that have been on Facebook are rather frightening,” Schwarting said.
After the incident on the bus, the video shows the child crying and going to sit in the lap of an older girl from the high school, where she remained for the rest of the bus ride, Schwarting says.
“The older girl at the high school, who is very trustworthy, said that it was her opinion–and again, I want to make sure that everybody understands that people do have opinions in this–it was her opinion that the child did not have any marks on the left side of her face, which is where the slap imprint was located,” Schwarting said.
After the incident, the kindergartner got off the bus a few minutes later at daycare, where she remained for 45 minutes to an hour, Schwarting said.
The superintendent says the bus footage of the incident isn’t enough to convince her that Walters is guilty.
“I have no visual proof to suggest that he actually inflicted the slap that is quite obviously on her face,” she said.
“It is still under investigation, but he is suspended from school until such time as a decision can be made– and certainly will not be riding the bus,” Schwarting said.
Walters’ court date is set for late September.