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Local

Parents sue Kaneland, bus company over autistic son's treatment

'What they did to our son Mitchal was absolutely appalling'

Blackberry Township resident Mitchal Padavana at age 9 in 2017. Mitchal has autism and is non-verbal. His parents suing Kaneland School District 302 and a bus company, alleging that their son was verbally and physically abused in 2017 while transported to a private school in Naperville.
Blackberry Township resident Mitchal Padavana at age 9 in 2017. Mitchal has autism and is non-verbal. His parents suing Kaneland School District 302 and a bus company, alleging that their son was verbally and physically abused in 2017 while transported to a private school in Naperville.

BLACKBERRY TOWNSHIP – Parents of a boy with autism filed a lawsuit against Kaneland School District 302 and a bus company alleging that their son was verbally and physically abused while being transported to a private school in Naperville.

The lawsuit, filed July 9, 2018 in DuPage County, does not specify the amount of money sought in damages, but it was filed in a section of law for claims over $50,000 in a jury trial.

Paul and Amy Padavana of Blackberry Township near Elburn sued on behalf of their son, Mitchal, who was 9 at the time, according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, Kaneland arranged the transportation for Mitchal through the North American Central School Bus LLC, which also does business as Illinois Central School Bus LLC.

When Mitchal began showing signs of trauma, distress and acting out with extreme aggression about July 5, 2017,  his parents placed a recording device in his backpack from July 6 through July 11, according to the lawsuit.

Their son is unable to communicate verbally with his parents, the lawsuit stated.

“The recordings included both verbal and physical abuse of the plaintiff Mitchal Padavana as he is transported to and from his special-needs school in Naperville,” according to the lawsuit.

The recordings revealed to the Padavanas the reason for their son’s distress, including the driver saying to the aide, “What the (expletive) are you doing? Let him go.”

In another part of the recording, the driver advises the aide, “Don’t leave no bruise, whatever you do.”

The aide responds that he knows.

“Right on the chin. Chinny chin. I’ll be like, ‘I think he just fell asleep, slid over and hit it (his chin) on the arm thing right here.”

His parents canceled Mitchal’s transportation arrangements, the lawsuit stated.

"What they did to our son Mitchal was absolutely appalling," Paul Padavana said.

“Since July 5, 2017, Mitchal has been struggling with symptoms associated with trauma. These symptoms include but are not limited to: loss of sleep, aggressiveness, fear, defiance, and self-abusive behavior. Plaintiff’s injuries require therapy/treatment, and he has been kept from attending to ordinary affairs and duties,” the lawsuit stated.

The Padavanas’ lawsuit alleged that the bus company was negligent by not providing qualified staff, failing to train their staff and failure to provide a video monitoring system on the transportation van.

The lawsuit also alleges that the bus company intentionally inflicted emotional distress on Mitchal in that the driver and aide’s conduct “was extreme and outrageous in that they played loud rap music, used profanity and verbally threatened to harm” their son.

Specifically, on July 11, 2017, “defendant employees intentionally threatened to punch him in his face causing Mitchal to fear for his safety.”

The lawsuit also alleges that the Kaneland School District was negligent and that its actions were willful and wanton by failing to ensure Mitchal would be provided with qualified staff, failing to vet the bus company and failing to provide suggestions to the bus company to aid in Mitchal’s transportation.

Both the bus company and Kaneland filed court papers asking DuPage County Judge Robert Kleeman to dismiss the Padavanas’ lawsuit.

Among the reasons Kaneland’s court filing seeks to have the lawsuit dismissed is that Mitchal's parents illegally recorded a private conversation between the aide and driver in the bus – and that the Padavanas’ attorney improperly named the school district instead of the school board as defendants when “the ability to be sued belongs exclusively to the board of education.”

Kaneland’s court filing also asserts that the district is immune to being sued for willful and wanton disregard and for negligence claims, citing Illinois law that gives immunity to local governments and their employees, as well as the Illinois School Code.

Among the bus company’s various reasons why the lawsuit against it should be dismissed was that the driver and aide were employees of the Illinois Central School Bus, not North America Central School Bus LLC, stating the Padavandas' named the wrong company to be sued.

The bus company also asserted in court papers that the Padavanas did not allege that the bus company knew or should have known that the bus driver or aide would commit verbal or physical abuse.

Kaneland attorney Ericka Thomas stated in an email that, “The school district is prohibited by statute from commenting on specific students and does not comment on pending litigation.”

The attorney for the bus company did not return a voicemail message seeking comment and the Padavandas’ attorney declined to comment.

The next court date is scheduled for June 27.

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