At about 3 p.m. on February 5, Norton was transporting students who attend Flint’s Michigan School for the Deaf. Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said that an adult student had somehow gotten under Norton’s skin, and an altercation ensued.
“For whatever reason, Thomas Norton lost his cool,” Swanson said.
Another student on the bus captured the incident on video. In the video, Norton could be seen allegedly staying “stop it!” while repeatedly knocking the man’s head against the window.
Swanson notes that, whatever a student is doing to push an adult’s buttons, the adult should never respond with physical violence.
“You have to have a good temperament, you have to have some good discernment of what you can do and what you can’t do. Physically touching, harming, assaulting a student is off-limits,” Swanson said.
The adult student is apparently unable to advocate for himself, so it’s not clear if he attempted to tell anyone. However, the matter did come to the attention of officials at the Michigan School for the Deaf, who then alerted the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department.
The bus driver has since resigned.
Also involved in the incident, albeit indirectly, was a bus driver’s aide. The aide will not be criminally charged in this incident, because she did not touch the student, according to Flint’s WJRT-TV. However, the Genesee Intermediate School District, which provides transportation for some Michigan School for the Deaf students, said that the aide should have intervened and did not. The aide has also since resigned from her position.
As for Norton, he’s been charged with third-degree vulnerable adult abuse and assault and battery. If convicted of both charges, he faces up to 93 days in jail on the assault and battery charge, and two years on the abuse charge. His next court appearance is scheduled for February 20.
Steve Tunnicliff, assistant superintendent for the Genesee Intermediate School District, said in a statement that adult employees in his district are held to a higher standard.
“We expect all employees on such teams to protect and advocate for our students, particularly those who may not be able to advocate for themselves,” he said.
The deaf student is expected to make a full recovery.
Parents place their trust in school bus drivers and aides when they allow their children to climb onto a school bus. Unfortunately, sometimes those adults abuse that trust. For example, as reported by The Inquisitr, back in August of 2019, a Louisiana school bus driver was accused of driving drunk with a bus full of kids.