James Lambert is accused of slapping student with autism; records show prior complaints

PASCO COUNTY, Fla - Personnel files for a bus aide caught on camera appearing to slap a student with autism reveal he has been disciplined by the Pasco County School District four times since 2010.

On August 20, 2010, records show Lambert admitted to pulling on the back of another employee's belt.  Actions district leaders called "inappropriate" and in violation of School Board policies related to equity and harassment.

In another incident report dated February 24, 2011, the assistant principal at Northwest Elementary School lodged a complaint against Lambert.  The assistant principal stated they boarded the bus Lambert was on on February 15 because Lambert had expressed that one of the students not be permitted to use a therapeutic oral device on the bus.  According to the report, Lambert became agitated and expressed concern that the student would poke an eye out or choke on the device or lanyard that holds it.

The assistant principal said she questioned Lambert further, he grabbed a radio from her hand and demonstrated by pointing at his face how an object like an antenna could poke an eye out.

Lambert admitted to taking the radio out of her hands but said he did not intend to grab it, according to the report.

Lambert was advised to review the employee handbook and speak with a bus route specialist.

A report dated September 27, 2012, references concerns regarding Lambert's Shady Hills Elementary School bus route.  It is noted that multiple complaints were received by the school's assistant principal pertaining to Lambert failing to stop bullying and addressing bullying in a timely manner. 

It is noted that Lambert said he was taking steps to correct student behavior and writing referrals.

Another issue regarding seating charts and taking proper attendance was also addressed.  A review of Lambert's daily attendance sheets and seating chart revealed Lambert marked two students as present on the first day of school.  However, further investigation revealed the two students were never on the bus.

Lambert was reminded that he was instructed to learn the student's names and verify all the children on the bus.

School district leaders say his actions reflected on his "reliability" as a district employee.

Lambert was advised to complete a student management-training course on how to engage with students on the bus.

On January 8, 2013, Lambert was written up by district officials for inappropriate conduct while addressing students on his Gulf Highlands Elementary School bus route.

According to the complaint, students claimed Lambert used profanities on the bus and told students to "shut up."

Lambert denied using profanities but did admit to telling students, "be quiet, the lights are on so, shut up."

School district leaders advised Lambert they would review his conduct monthly to determine if he should maintain his position.

Lambert's records show he completed a student management-training course and was placed on administrative reassignment for four days in October 2012.

Pasco County School District Communications Director Linda Cobbe said Lambert was not fired for the previous incidents because they did not rise to the level of slapping a student.  In addition, Cobbe explained the district believes in progressive discipline and that Lambert complied with all their recommendations.

Cobbe said this latest incident will likely result in termination.

"It's just the most troubling, sickening, disgusting thing I've ever seen," said Cobbe of what the video shows.  "He [Lambert] just sits there and he's kind of smiling this creepy smile and he's like, 'You like that?'"

Records of yearly reviews conducted on Lambert show he his work was deemed satisfactory in all categories including "reliability."

The boy's mother, Lori Lamb, told ABC Action News she wants Lambert fired and given jail time.

"Does he just go around beating on kids that can't defend themselves?" asked Lamb.  "He [my son] was harnessed in his seat, he was no threat to anybody."

ABC Action News went to Lambert's Holiday home but no one answered.  His listed phone number is disconnected.

According to Cobbe, school district leaders have tried reaching Lambert by phone but he has yet to return their calls.

Regardless, many questions still need answering and Lamb is not giving up.

"How dare you touch any child regardless of their special needs," she said.

Cobbe explained that the process of termination will be addressed by school board members later this month.

Lambert is charged with two counts of child abuse.



 

 

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